Russia’s largest gas producer Novatek will be issued permits to boost production capacity at its Vysotsk liquefied natural gas plant on the shores of the Baltic Sea.

Moscow-based state review board Glavgosexpertiza said it issued its positive conclusion after reviewing a blueprint of the Novatek-proposed Vysotsk LNG modernisation project, in the Leningrad region.

Under a plan which foresees the arrival of additional natural gas from Russia’s Gazprom-operated trunk pipeline network, the nameplate capacity of the plant will increase from 660,000 tonnes to 895,000 tonnes per annum of LNG.

To enable more gas supplies to the LNG production site, Novatek has proposed building an additional booster pumping station to serve the 40-kilometre connector between the LNG plant and Gazprom’s network.

Vysotsk LNG, where Novatek has a 51% shareholding, was already working above its nameplate capacity in 2022, with cargoes being delivered to Scandinavia, Lithuania and other European countries.

Demand for LNG in Europe rose following Gazprom’s decision to drastically reduce its gas pipeline supplies to the continent.

LNG shipments from Vysotsk and the Novatek-led Yamal LNG in West Siberia are exempted from the sanctions that western nations imposed on Russia as a result of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Russian LNG accounted for close to 16% of European LNG imports in 2022 according to Bruegel, a Brussels-based think tank, even though buyers have faced criticism and protests as a result.

The Vysotsk LNG facility went into operation in 2019 with two liquefaction trains that use a liquefaction process commercially known as Liquefin provided by France’s industrial gases player Air Liquide.

According to Novatek, it has LNG storage capacity of 42,000 cubic metres, with a loading jetty capable of serving mid-sized LNG carriers.

In September 2022, Air Liquide announced its intention to withdraw from Russia, signing a memorandum of understanding to allow a buyout by its Russian management team.

Novatek has not responded to an Upstream request to provide an update on the timeline of the upgrade project that will be based on Russian supply and services.

Last year, international sanctions prohibited western contractors to deliver equipment for Russia’s LNG industry and also to export what is called “dual-use” goods that may be used for civil and military purpose.

According to the Skolkovo Energy Centre in Moscow, changes to the configuration of the two identical 330,000 tpa LNG chains are constrained by limited space on the existing site of the Vysotsk LNG plant.

The plant was built on a small island in the Baltic Sea next to a major oil products export terminal operated by Russian oil producer Lukoil.

Gazprom has surplus onshore gas pipeline transportation capacity in this region and this has increased following the explosions that ruptured the Nord Stream 1 subsea pipeline September.

Nord Stream 1 had capacity for shipping about 55 billion cubic metres of Russian gas per year across the Baltic Sea to Germany.

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