Gas Leaks Delay Angola LNG Plant Shutdown to Mid September

Source: Reuters 9/5/2013, Location: Africa

Angola's new liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant has pushed back the start of a 53-day maintenance period to mid-September after engineers discovered small gas leaks in onshore pipelines last month, sources linked to the project said. The $10 billion plant was initially due to shut on Aug. 18, but the discovery of two leaking wells led site managers to delay maintenance until the problem was traced and fixed, a site engineer said.

The start-up of Angola's first LNG project, which converts gas into a liquid form for export, suffered long delays as the plant was beset by various technical problems, including a fire in April that occurred just hours before production was to begin. The Chevron-operated project eventually shipped its first LNG cargo to Brazil in June, 18 months behind schedule.

Maintenance has now been pushed back until Sept. 13, the site engineer said, while a second engineer at the plant confirmed that maintenance was scheduled to start in mid-September. "It will be 53 days from production to production after the plant shuts ... the maintenance is there to replace the strainers and remove limescale and conduct a performance acceptance test," the first source said. Officials at Angola LNG could not be reached to comment.

As part of maintenance, engineering firm Bechtel must ensure that the plant passes a performance test, hitting certain milestones such as running close to its maximum capacity.

Angola LNG has so far exported three cargoes on tankers to Brazil, China and Japan, in that order, and traders were expecting a fourth and possibly fifth shipment from the plant prior to shutdown. It is not clear whether there is enough LNG in its storage tanks to allow a fourth cargo to be loaded. "Only if they produced more than expected, could they load another cargo. They have to keep some LNG in the tank to keep it cold during the shutdown period," the first source said.

Chevron holds a 36.4 percent stake in the project and Angola state oil company Sonangol 22.8 percent, while Total, BP and ENI each hold 13.6 percent.

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