Freeport LNG partial restart delayed to November from previous October target

Freeport LNG

Freeport LNG has delayed its target for partial restart by about a month as it works to complete repairs following a June explosion and fire that shut down the Texas liquefaction facility, the company said Aug. 23.

Full operations were delayed by even longer.

The operator believes it will be able to resume partial production in early- to mid-November, it said in a statement. Full operations are not expected to resume until March 2023.

Its previous target for partial operations to resume was early October, while it had previously expected full operations to resume by the end of this year. It said it was working with its contractor, Kiewit, and US regulators to resume operations as quickly and as safely as possible, while also providing recovery execution certainty, and minimizing procurement and performance testing risks. Its updated timing follows a detailed assessment of alternatives for resuming operations.

The three train, 15 million mt/year export terminal accounts for about 15% of US LNG supply, which has become increasingly important to serving European demand amid sharp cuts in Russian pipeline gas to the Continent.

“Although typical construction risks could impact the recovery plan, it is anticipated that initial production can commence in early to mid-November, and ramp up to a sustained level of at least 2 Bcf/d by the end of November, representing over 85% of the export capacity of the facility,” Freeport LNG said. “The recovery plan will utilize Freeport LNG’s second LNG loading dock as a lay berth until loading capabilities at the second dock are reinstated in March 2023, at which time we anticipate being capable of operating at 100% of our capacity.”

Freeport LNG said it was coordinating closely with representatives of the US Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the US Coast Guard and other applicable regulatory agencies to implement its recovery plan and corrective measures to ensure a safe and confident resumption of operations.

The explosion and associated fire at Freeport LNG occurred in a pipe rack near the LNG storage tanks at the liquefaction facility. An estimated 120,000 cubic feet of LNG was reported to be released within the facility, according to PHMSA.

Following the incident, PHMSA told Freeport LNG it wanted the operator to take corrective actions and seek their approval before resuming normal operations. Corrective actions it sought included the submission of an evaluation of the LNG storage tanks operating modes. The agency had said it wanted the evaluation to be performed by an approved independent third party. Inspection and testing procedures also were sought, as was a root cause failure analysis. PHMSA also had said a final report would have to include findings, any lessons learned, and whether the findings and any lessons learned are applicable to the entirety of Freeport’s operations.

Freeport LNG agreed in a consent agreement to do all of those things. It also agreed to provide weekly updates to PHMSA on the temperature and density of the LNG stored in the facility’s three LNG storage tanks. If LNG Freeport must transfer LNG from one storage tank to another or recirculate LNG to the loading dock, it must notify PHMSA within 24 hours after completion of the operation. Freeport LNG may not return the export facility to normal operations until it receives written approval from PHMSA.