Norway’s Equinor is buying a shipload of LNG from the Russian Arctic

The Yamal LNG will help maintain reservoirs at the Melkøya plant while it undergoes repairs.

By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer - April 9, 2021
The Melkøya LNG plant on the Barents Sea coast is seen in an aerial photo. (Thomas Nilsen / The Independent Barents Observer)

The liquefied natural gas tanker Vladimir Rusanov on April 6 left the Russian Arctic port of Sabetta and set course for Equinor’s Melkøya plant in Norway.

It is the first time that natural gas from the Yamal Peninsula is sold to Norway and that a Yamalmax tanker sails with a shipload to Hammerfest on the Barents Sea coast

The Vladimir Rusanov is due to reach its destination on Saturday, carrying up to 172,600 cubic meters of natural gas.

According to Equinor, the LNG from Yamal is needed for the maintenance of its natural gas reservoirs at Melkøya. The Arctic LNG plant has been under reconstruction since a serious fire in late September 2020 caused major damage.

The fire destroyed the power turbine, and in addition, large volumes of salty seawater damaged other auxiliary systems such as electrical cables and equipment in the plant.

The Russian LNG will be used to keep down temperatures at the Melkøya reservoirs, Equinor representative Cato Osenbroch told the Barents Observer.

He confirms that it is the first time that Equinor has imported a shipload from the Yamal LNG. That there are no plans for additional deliveries.

But is not the first time that Equinor has cooperated with the operators of the Yamal LNG. In 2017, the then-brand new yamalmax tanker Christophe de Margerie loaded LNG at Melkøya as part of its test voyage in Arctic waters. The ship has since shuttled between Sabetta and foreign terminals along with a fleet of 14 sister ships.

It is also not the first time that Russian LNG carriers pay visits to Norwegian ports. In 2019, a big number of ship-to-ship operations were conducted in the waters near Honningsvåg, Norway. The transshipment of LNG were halted as Novatek started the development of similar services in Russian waters. Since early 2021 a reloading point has been in operation near the island of Kildin.

As the Vladimir Rusanov sails towards Hammerfest, the Rudolf Samoylovich is engaged in reloading of LNG at Kildin.

Equinor launched its Melkøya plant in 2007. Natural gas is extracted at the Snøhvit field in the Barents Sea and sent by pipeline 160 kilometers south to Hammerfest for procession.

The annual LNG export capacity from the plant outside Hammerfest is 5.75 billion cubic meters, equivalent to 4.2 million tonnes.