(Adds Statoil response paragraph 4)
OSLO, May 15 (Reuters) - A leak at Statoil’s liquefied natural gas plant in the Norwegian Arctic this year could have caused an explosion, killing workers and seriously damaging the facility, the Petroleum Safety Authority said on Thursday.
The four-month investigation also concluded that Statoil took too long to reduce pressure in the LNG unit as 12 minutes passed between the sounding of the alarm and the decision to depressurize.
“Had the hydrocarbon leak ignited, an explosion would have resulted that could have caused two fatalities,” the safety watchdog said. “An explosion would also have caused damage to equipment and structures and a lengthy shutdown of the plant.”
In response to the regulators’ finding, Statoil said it had introduced a new internal control mechanism to deal with gas leaks and had inspected other equipment for signs of fault to avoid future leaks.
The Jan. 5 leak shut the facility for three days and up to 750 kg of gas escaped, the watchdog said.
The plant, in Hammerfest on Norway’s northern tip, is Europe’s only gas liquefaction plant. It struggled for much of last year with reliability issues but has operated with few problems this year. (Reporting by Balazs Koranyi; editing by Jane Baird)