Russian operator Yamal LNG has brought online a long-awaited fourth train at its liquefied natural gas plant as core shareholder and Russia's largest independent gas producer, Novatek, ramps up its LNG developments.

The facility is situated in the port of Sabetta on the Yamal Peninsula in northern Russia.

The fourth train is understood to have reached its full production capacity of 950,000 tonnes per annum of LNG, Moscow business daily Kommersant said, quoting sources close to the project.

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Novatek — which had initially planned to commission the liquefaction unit in 2019 — has not commented on the report.

Previous reports suggested that the delay in start-up had been caused by Russian-made compressors failing to perform as designed.

Novatek has high hopes that the fourth train will be instrumental in successful its own simplified liquefaction process — named Arctic Cascade — that is paired with Russian made compressors and other components.

Authorities have repeatedly asked Novatek to help foster the growth of Russian suppliers and contractors through its LNG projects, which are heavily dependent on imported modules and expertise.

Novatek said last month that the fourth train produced its first “drops of LNG” last year, although adding it was expected to hit full nameplate capacity in 2021.

According to Novatek, the first three trains of Yamal LNG operated at an average of 114% of annual nameplate capacity of 17.4 million tonnes of LNG last year despite the decline in energy demand caused by Covid-19 pandemic.

Yamal LNG output almost hit the 5 million tonnes mark in the first quarter of this year.

Arctic LNG 2

Speaking to President Vladimir Putin earlier in May, Novatek chairman Leonid Mikhelson said the company has pushed forward the start-up of the third train at its next major LNG project, Arctic LNG 2, by one year to 2025.

The first train of this project, located on the shore on the Gydan Peninsula, is still scheduled to come online in 2023, with the company achieving the 53% progress completion mark in its construction as of the end of May.

The train will be installed on top of a concrete gravity based foundation (GBS), casting of which at Novatek’s speciliased shipyard near Murmansk it 80% complete.

Arctic LNG 1

Novatek now intends to commission another three trains of its next large project, Arctic LNG 1, between 2027 and 2030, with these two Arctic LNG development adding over 40 million tpa of LNG production to its portfolio.

Additionally, Novatek may deliver another GBS-based LNG train with capacity of 6.6 million tpa in 2030 after determining the source of feedstock gas for it on the Gydan Peninsula.

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Novatek said that it is eager to secure more LNG sales to China where it sees strong industrial and residential gas demand, with LNG imports to the country rising by 13% to 70 million tonnes last year and by another 24% this year.

Another focus market is India where Novatek expects annual regasification import capacity to almost double to 69 million tonnes by 2025 from the amount seen in 2019.