Freeport LNG starts overhaul of work and safety methods prior to full plant ramp-up after closure

Tuesday, 22 November 2022
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LNG News Editor: 

US export plant Freeport LNG in Texas has undertaken a work and safety methods overhaul as it moved ahead to return to a full production ramp-up in early 2023 after the shut-down caused by the June 8 fire in 2022.

Freeport was closed due to a pipeline explosion and the company has said that it expected the plant to return to at least partial service soon.

Measures

The Quintana Island facility has implemented more safety orders after detailed dialogue with the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), a branch of the US Department of Transportation, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The PHMSA and FERC have had wide-ranging discussions with Freeport LNG management about damage assessments, repair work and schedules for the restart.

“Freeport LNG is committed to emerging from the June 8th incident with an unmatched focus on safety, operational integrity and operational excellence,” declared the company.

The Texas company has also provided the results of an independent, third-party root cause failure analysis (RCFA) report on the June 8 incident that occurred at the liquefaction facility.

The report was commissioned by Freeport LNG and independently conducted by an incident investigation company, the IFO Group, to identify the causes.

“The safety and security of our workforce and surrounding community, and environmental stewardship are Freeport LNG's top priorities,” stated the company founded by Michael Smith who is Chairman and Chief Executive.

Freeport LNG's main customers include Japan’s largest importer JERA Co. Inc., the Japanese utilities Kansai Electric and Osaka Gas as well as South Korean company SK E&S and buyers in Europe.

“Freeport LNG believes that transparency around the causes of this incident, and the remedial actions it is taking to ensure an incident of this nature never occurs again, is critical to maintaining public trust,” declared the company.

During the first quarter of 2022 before the accident, the Freeport plant had exported 55 cargoes to import terminals in Europe and North Asia.

“Over the course of almost five months, IFO Group investigated the incident, collected and analysed physical specimens from the incident, interviewed witnesses, reviewed process and design data, and ultimately developed the RCFA report, identifying specific causes that led or contributed to the June 8th incident,” explained the statement signed by Freeport LNG Development.

To supplement IFO's report, Freeport LNG said it also engaged another independent consultant to perform a full review of its LNG storage and transfer operating procedures, its control systems maintenance and inspection procedures and its personnel qualifications and training programs.

As a result of this independent, multi-month review, the company said it was implementing various recommended improvements in these areas.

“Additionally, Freeport LNG has undertaken a significant hiring effort to increase LNG plant employee staffing by over 30 percent in order to reduce the amount of overtime as well as create new functional departments within the organization that are focused on improved training, operational excellence, quality assurance and improved business performance,” the company stated.

Freeport noted in its summary of the causes of the accident that there was “operator fatigue” at the plant as a result of significant overtime needs.

“Freeport LNG is also executing an extensive company-wide safety management initiative to apply and reinforce process safety concepts into daily work processes across the organization,” it said.

Full report

In the full report, Freeport said that the direct cause of the fire was linked to a pipe in the plant.

“A piping segment containing cryogenic LNG without proper over-pressure protection, which LNG then warmed and expanded due to exposure to ambient conditions, resulted in a boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion, or BLEVE, and the rupturing of the piping segment,” explained Freeport.

It added that the root causes were pressure safety valve (PSV) testing procedures and seal program deficiencies.

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