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ENERGY

Norwegian gas plant back in service after fire

Norway is Europe's second-biggest supplier of natural gas behind Russia and key to ensuring energetic autonomy for the continent. Its sole liquefied natural gas plant is operating once again after being ravaged by a fire in 2020.

Norway's sole liquefied natural gas plant is located in Hammerfest, in the north of the country.
Norway's sole liquefied natural gas plant is located in Hammerfest, in the north of the country. Now that it is back in service, it is hoped that Europe will be able to reduce its dependency on Russia. (Photo by JOHN HUGES / AFP)

Norway’s sole liquefied natural gas (LNG) unit has been restarted after a 2020 fire and will soon begin production, energy company Equinor said Friday, a move expected to help increase exports to Europe.

Norway is Europe’s second-biggest supplier of natural gas behind Russia.

Production at Equinor’s plant in Hammerfest in northern Norway, which makes it possible to deliver gas by ship in liquid form, is to help Europe cut its dependency on Russian gas after its invasion of Ukraine.

“We have completed the repair work on the plant, we have completed the testing… and we have now started the cool-down process,” Equinor spokesman Gisle Ledel Johannessen told AFP.

“It will take some time to finalise the cool-down process. The next step is to get the liquefied natural gas on the tanks”, he said.

Johannessen would not specify when that could happen, but said it was “a short time frame”.

The site, damaged in a September 2020 fire, produces almost 4.65 million tonnes of LNG per year, according to Equinor.

Norway announced steps in March to keep its gas production at maximum levels to help Europe reduce its Russian dependency.

Among other things, the Norwegian Petroleum and Energy Ministry agreed to adjust the production licences of three offshore fields so that they can prioritise gas production over oil.

But its exports have been squeezed by production capacities, already churning at maximum levels, and the distribution system via pipelines.

It is hoped the Hammerfest unit will make it possible to increase export volumes.

Norway covers between 20 and 25 percent of the European Union’s and Britain’s gas needs, while Russia currently supplies around 40 percent.

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ENERGY

Could sky-high energy prices force some ski resorts in Norway to remain closed?

High electricity prices and the prospect of power rationing could spell big trouble for Norway's smaller ski centres.

Could sky-high energy prices force some ski resorts in Norway to remain closed?

Record high energy prices mean some ski resorts in Norway are facing the prospect of staying shut this winter, business and financial newspaper Dagens Næringsliv reports. 

“We constantly have to make an ongoing assessment of it, but in the worst case, we have to close the slope,” Knut Styrvold, chairman of the Kirkerudbakken ski centre in Bærum municipality, told the paper. 

Industry organisation Norwegian Alpine Resorts and Mountain Destinations sent a letter last week to the Prime Minister, Finance Minister and the Minister of Culture calling for measures from the state to help businesses struggling with energy costs. 

Some of the highest costs for an alpine resort are artificial snow production, which requires large amounts of power. 

“In our area, with the prices that are predicted now, we are looking at a tenfold increase in power costs, perhaps more for the coming winter,” Odd Stensrud, deputy chairman of the industry organisation and general manager of Alpinco, which owns and operates the alpine resorts at Hafjell and Kvitfjell, told the paper. 

Larger resorts and firms should be able to manage as they have agreements where they pre-pay for energy in bulk, meaning they may not necessarily have paid current high prices for the energy they will use in snow production. However, the general manager of Alpinco added that larger resorts could still end up paying double what they paid last year. 

Support for smaller resorts, and the business community in general, have yet to be announced by the government. According to Stensrud, this means many resorts may opt against running the lifts this winter. 

“If the electricity prices that are signalled for the coming winter become a reality, then it is absolutely certain that it will mean the hook on the door for several locations,” he said. 

“It is important to remember that the alpine resorts are often the core business in many mountain destinations and local communities. They keep the other tourism activities going in mountain municipalities in Norway and are crucial to ensure that districts and municipalities are not hit too hard by electricity prices,” Strensud added. 

Earlier this week, Oil and Energy Minister Terje Aasland said that the government and parliamentary leaders were “working closely to find a fair arrangement for business”. 

A plan for businesses is expected to be unveiled during the next month. 

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