THE mechanical problems that put a quick stop to production at Chevron’s US$54bn Gorgon LNG plant in Australia could take up to two months to fix, the company has announced.
Earlier this week, Chevron said it had been forced to shut down production less than a month after it had started following mechanical issues with the propane refrigerant circuit on train 1. The closed system is used to cool natural gas to liquid prior to shipping abroad.
“Work necessary to complete the repairs is ongoing while the site team continues equipment inspection and assessment,” Chevron said in a statement emailed to The Chemical Engineer. “Based on initial findings, the repair work is of a routine nature and all the necessary equipment and material is available on site. A restart of the plant within 30–60 days is estimated at this time.”
Production is expected to ramp up to full capacity of 5.2m t/y over the coming 5–7 months, and construction of the second and third LNG trains is not affected by the repairs, the company added.
Tony Regan, an LNG consultant at Tri-Zen International in Singapore, told the Sydney Morning Herald that startup problems with such large projects are not uncommon as startup is ramped up slowly so that critical equipment can be checked.
'From what information we have it's not possible to identify what exactly is the problem and how serious it is, but this statement suggests it is not particularly serious,' he told the newspaper.
This unforeseen shutdown is the latest in a series of delays that has hampered the project. Labour disputes and interruptions to equipment deliveries contributed to the project running two years behind schedule and US$17bn over budget.
Gas from two offshore fields is piped to a 15.6m t/y LNG plant on the remote Barrow Island off Western Australia. LNG is offloaded via a 2.1 km long jetty onto LNG tankers for shipping abroad. Chevron announced on 20 March that the first tanker of LNG had left for Japan. Gorgon also pipes natural gas to the Western Australia mainland for domestic use.
Australia has a number of large LNG facilities under construction, including the Wheatstone project, also majority owned by Chevron. Australia is projected to surpass Qatar as the world’s largest producer of LNG in 2020.
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