Freeport production pause will be longer than anticipated

Freeport LNG has said that its LNG liquefaction plant on the Gulf of Mexico Coast will not return to full operations until the end of 2022. The facility was hit by a fire last week. Partial operations were not expected to resume for about 90 days, the company said. That compares with an initial estimated downtime of three weeks.

The incident left the 15m tonnes per year export facility, making it the second-largest in the US and seventh-largest in the world, completely offline.

The fire at the liquefaction plant on Quintana Island, Texas started at about 11:40 local time on June 8th following the ignition of a LNG vapour cloud. There were no injuries and the incident did not pose a threat to the surrounding community. The company said both the LNG vapour cloud and fire were contained within the boundaries of the facility and the initial ignition lasted approximately 10 seconds.

Freeport said that “the fire and associated smoke visible thereafter were from the burning of materials in and around the location where the incident occurred, such as piping insulation and cabling. With the assistance of local area emergency response personnel, the resultant fire was extinguished approximately 40 minutes after the initial incident. While the burning of those materials resulted in carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, particulate matter, sulphur dioxide and volatile organic compound emissions, these were of limited quantity due to the short duration of the fire and not at levels that posed any immediate risk to Freeport LNG personnel or the surrounding community. There was no release of any other chemicals or substances from the plant during the event.”

Water used to suppress the fire was captured on site and will be tested for harmful contaminants before being released or removed for proper disposal.

“None of the liquefaction trains, LNG storage tanks, dock facilities, or LNG process areas were impacted,” Freeport LNG said.

The incident occurred in pipe racks that support the transfer of LNG from the facility’s LNG storage tank area to the terminal’s dock facilities, located on the intracoastal side of Freeport LNG’s dock basin, where LNG is transferred to tankers for export.

Preliminary observations suggested that the incident resulted from the overpressure and rupture of a segment of an LNG transfer line, leading to the rapid flashing of LNG and the release and ignition of the natural gas vapour cloud.

“Additional investigation is underway to determine the underlying precipitating events that enabled the overpressure conditions in the LNG piping.” In March the Freeport LNG facility loaded 21 cargoes, carrying an estimated 64bn cubic feet of gas to Europe, South Korea and China, according to the US Department of Energy. That compared with 15 cargoes in February and 19 in January