Equinor broke regulations ahead of 2020 methanol fire, regulator says

OSLO — Norway’s petroleum safety watchdog (PSA) said on Thursday it had identified serious breaches of regulations at an Equinor methanol plant that caught fire last year.

“The PSA’s assessment is that the incident had a major accident potential and could have caused serious personal injury or death as well as substantial financial loss,” the regulator said in a report.

“The PSA’s investigation has identified serious breaches of the regulations,” it added.

The Dec. 2 fire at Tjeldbergodden, western Europe’s largest methanol plant, was caused by a runaway steam turbine when its shutdown valve malfunctioned, Equinor’s own investigation concluded in May.

The blaze shut the central Norway plant for around 12 weeks and could have resulted in fatalities, although no one was ultimately injured, Equinor itself said in a report last month.

The methanol plant accounts for more than 25% of European production and has an annual capacity of around 900,000 tonnes, according to Equinor data. The Norwegian firm owns an 82% stake while ConocoPhillips owns the remaining 18%. (Reporting by Terje Solsvik and Nora Buli, editing by Gwladys Fouche)

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