A major fire stopped commissioning of a second gas processing train at the Gazprom-operated Amur gas processing plant in East Siberia, Russia in the early hours of Friday.

There were no casualties reported but newbuild facilities were partially damaged.

According to eyewitness reports, the accident started with a natural gas leak near a de-ethanisation column, with escaping gas igniting several minutes later.

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Russian gas giant Gazprom has been reported to have already sent its representatives from Moscow to the site to determine the cause of the accident — preliminary identified as “depressurisation during testing” — and assess the extent of the damage.

The fire was reported to have been extinguished by the remotely-operated on-site firefighting system at 13:05 local time on the same day.

Aftermath: the second train of the Amur gas processing plant, following the fire that started in the morning of 8 October Photo: AMUR GPZ

The Amur plant is a key element in Gazprom’s plan to expand its gas deliveries to China via the Sila Sibiri pipeline, with its facilities designed to remove high-value components from the outgoing methane mixture, such as ethane, propane, butane and helium.

According to Gazprom, gas intake to the plant has been halted until the the accident investigation and damage assessment have been concluded.

In the short-term, the accident is not expected to affect the flow of Russian gas to China via Sila Sibiri because Gazprom is able to deliver volumes from the Chayanda field in East Siberia without treatment at the plant, according to the company.

The Amur plant, which saw its first train formally commissioned in June this year, is set to host six trains and will be able to process 42 billion cubic metres per annum of untreated gas.

Gazprom had earlier estimated that the plant will require total investment of over $11 billion to bring it to its full capacity by 2025.

That deadline may be revised following assessment of damage to the second train, delaying Gazprom’s long-term goal of boosting supplies to China via Sila Sibiri to the contracted annual volume of 38 Bcm in 2024.

Gazprom has yet to disclose its latest gas delivery figures to China. However, it said recently that volumes were increasing rapidly this year in line with higher gas demand.

The company said earlier that it supplied over 4.6 Bcm of gas to China via Sila Sibiri between January and June, as against 4.1 Bcm during the whole of 2020.

The fire at Amur is the second major recent accident at Gazprom-operated installations in Russia.

In early August, a fire and explosion wiped out the second train of a major condensate processing facility near the city of Novy Urengoy in West Siberia.

That accident led to the fall of Russian gas exports to Germany and sparked new worries on the availability of gas in the European market this winter.