Equinor is facing a one-year shutdown at its Hammerfest LNG plant in northern Norway following a fire that resulted in extensive damage to the facility.

The blaze broke out at the end of last month in an air intake for one of the liquefied natural gas plant’s five power turbines in the latest in a series of safety incidents that have led to several outages at the plant, which processes gas from the Snohvit field in the Barents Sea, since it was brought online in 2007.

As well as damage to the turbine, other auxiliary systems such as electrical equipment and cables have been damaged at the plant on the island of Melkoya from seawater used to extinguish the fire, Equinor said in a statement.


Energy explored: Gain valuable insight into the global oil and gas industry's energy transition from Accelerate, the new weekly newsletter from Upstream and Recharge. Sign up here.

“It is the scope of work of these consequential damages that are considered the most extensive and the duration of the shutdown will depend on the delivery time of necessary equipment,” the state-controlled operator said.

“Progress will also be affected by the current restrictions related to the Covid-19 virus,” it added.

Plant director Andreas Sandvik estimated the plant may not be brought back online before 1 October next year, though he added there was “significant uncertainty” with a lot of inspection work still to be done.

Fire probes

"Safety is the first priority and we will not start the plant until we are sure that it can be done in a safe way,” he said.

“Therefore, we have worked systematically and thoroughly to map the damage after the fire, and assess the technical condition of the plant."

Equinor intends to carry out maintenance and other repair work planned for 2021 at the facility during the shutdown period.

Independent investigations of the fire have been launched by Equinor as well as the police and Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA), which characterised the incident as “extremely serious and frightening”, though there were no personnel injuries.

The fire broke out amid an ongoing audit being carried out by the PSA after the safety watchdog identified issues last year at the plant relating to maintenance management, maintenance strategy and barrier management.

The PSA is also in the midst of a new audit at Hammerfest LNG relating to major incidents and electrical installations.