December 19, 2018 / 12:02 PM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 2-Explosion shuts Europe's largest methanol plant in Norway, no injuries

* No effect on gas output from Norway’s Heidrun field

* Methanol plant to remain shut until investigations end

* Fire in facility was extinguished after explosion

* The plant produces a quarter of Europe’s methanol

* (Adds detail, background, quotes, Heidrun field’s output)

By Lefteris Karagiannopoulos

OSLO, Dec 19 (Reuters) - A fire at Norway’s Tjeldbergodden industrial facility on Wednesday triggered an evacuation of staff and shutdown at Europe’s largest methanol plant and a gas-receiving terminal, operators Equinor and Gassco said.

The fire was caused by an explosion in one of the facility’s high voltage rooms just before 1000 GMT, Equinor added, and was put out with no injuries reported.

The shut methanol plant accounts for more than 25 percent of European production and has an annual capacity of around 900,000 tonnes, according to Equinor’s data.

It is fed with natural gas from the offshore Heidrun field via the 250-km Haltenpipe pipeline. Production at the field was not affected though, an Equinor spokeswoman said, as the gas will be rerouted to other directions in the pipeline system.

“Luckily no people got hurt... We are now closed until the investigations are done. When we are ready with that, we will ramp up again,” said Equinor’s Elin Isaksen, declining to give an estimate on how long it will take to restart production.

Isaksen said the company did not know what caused the explosion.

Methanol, produced from natural gas and other sources, is used in industries such as pharmaceuticals and textiles and is also used as fuel.

Earlier on Wednesday, local police said on Twitter there were reports of smoke over a technical room at the Tjeldbergodden facility. After the fire was extinguished, it said the incident would be investigated.

The methanol plant is owned by Equinor and ConocoPhillips , while the gas terminal is owned by Equinor, Petoro, ConocoPhillips and Eni.

The site’s air separation plant, owned by Equinor, Aga and ConocoPhillips, was also shut. The gas terminal is part of the Haltenpipe pipeline, which is operated by Gassco. (Reporting by Lefteris Karagiannopoulos; Writing by Terje Solsvik; Editing by Dale Hudson and Louise Heavens)

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