Freeport LNG updates timeline for post-blast repairs after federal order deems plant unsafe

Jul 10, 2022

A partial restart of operations at Freeport LNG’s Quintana Island facility is not expected until October, when it aims to deliver “substantially all” of its volumes, the company said in a statement.

The Houston liquefied natural gas company’s update follows an order issued last week by the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which deemed the Quintana Island facility unsafe after last month’s explosion that caused significant damage. The order outlined a series of steps the company must take before resuming operations, noting conditions at the facility “pose an integrity risk to public safety, property, or the environment.”

The blast and subsequent production disruption sent a major ripple through the global gas market, which had been relying on the facility to send LNG to Europe as the European Union distances itself from Russia — previously its primary supplier of natural gas — in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Exports from the facility go primarily to Europe and account for about 10 percent of the continent’s imports, according to research firm Rystad Energy. The company aims to bring the plant fully online by the end of the year.

“Since the incident,” Freeport said, “the company has worked collaboratively with all local, state and federal officials regarding the incident response, investigation, and safe resumption of liquefaction operations.”

The federal order directs Freeport to commission a third-party analysis of the explosion’s “root cause” and send its findings to the agency within 60 days. Preliminary evidence suggests a pressure safety valve failed, allowing pressure to build along a 300-foot stretch of pipe, which then burst.

The ruptured pipe had been used to transfer LNG around the facility’s storage area and is located along a rack that supports additional piping, power cables and equipment, the order said, noting “much of the other piping in the area was also damaged and will require repairs or replacement before LNG transfer operations can recommence.”

The pipeline safety administration, an arm of the U.S. Department of Transportation, said in the order that the facility is “within an ecologically sensitive area” and is near neighborhoods, recreational areas and highly trafficked waterways.

Freeport LNG must submit for review a report detailing the blast’s cause, a third-party review of the facility’s employee training and qualifications, a plan for corrective action and an inspection schedule, the order said. A separate order from the U.S. Coast Guard also prohibits the facility from shipping until it conducts a risk analysis.

The company said it is working with regulators to bring the facility back online safely. “Safety has always been, and will continue to be, the highest priority for Freeport LNG,” it said in a statement.


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