OSLO (Reuters) - Norway’s largest gas processing plant Kollsnes, a key facility for British exports which faced outages last winter, is having additional upgrades this summer to protect it against extreme weather later in the year, operator Gassco told Reuters.
In late February, when a cold snap dubbed the ‘Beast from the East’ hit Europe sending energy prices to 10-year highs, Kollsnes had to drastically reduce output as equipment parts froze, stripping Britain of much-needed gas supplies.
On March 1, the second day of the plant’s outage, the lack of supplies in Britain, coinciding with high demand, caused prompt gas prices in the country to quadruple, with the within-day price reaching 160 pence per therm, the highest since the liberalisation of the market in the 1990s.
“The winterization programme for Kollsnes has also been updated ... Extensive heating measures, to ensure the best possible production availability also during winter and extreme weather conditions, is an example,” said Gassco’s spokeswoman Lisbet Kallevik.
Gassco is also working on reinforcing the power grid as a part of this project, added Kallevik.
The Kollsnes plant is at the middle of its planned maintenance period at the moment and works are scheduled to continue until Oct. 1.
Even though maintenance at Norway’s gas processing plants happens virtually every year, this summer’s works are much more extensive and targeted. A lot of the equipment that was more exposed to the elements is being insulated to withstand cold.
The extraordinary weather conditions that Kollsnes faced in February - a combination of very low temperatures that reached as low as minus 8 degrees Celsius and strong wind - created a challenge engineers call a “cold bridge”.
In the event of a cold bridge, impulse lines, which are small pipes used to connect larger gas pipes with measuring instruments, freeze.
As a result, typical process systems, like pressure transmitters and pressure controllers connected to impulse lines, used to trace heat, are disrupted.
Gassco is now insulating the instrumented systems and will boost heat tracing of the equipment exposed to the weather elements to reduce vulnerability and the technical risk exposure on the plant.
“Our target is to secure full production availability at the plant at all times, but still it’s impossible to promise that we will not see any outages this winter,” Kallevik said.
Gassco declined to disclose the cost of the additional maintenance at Kollsnes.
Equinor, Kollsnes’ technical service provider, is also evaluating its short and long-term routines for extremely cold weather to reduce the probability and consequences of equipment failure, said the firm’s spokeswoman Elin Isaksen.
Editing by Nina Chestney and Mark Potter