A fire in a turbine at Norwegian state oil company Equinor’s gas plant on the island of Melkøya off Hammerfest on Monday afternoon was the latest of several “serious incidents,” claimed one of the labour unions representing workers. All employees were evacuated and the fire was eventually extinguished.
Details remained sketchy Monday evening, but thick black smoke billowed from the island just off the small city in Northern Norway, and open flames could be seen across the water. Hilde-Marit Rysst, leader of the trade union SAFE, told state broadcaster NRK that the fire could have wiped out the entire plant and led to injuries and death if an explosion had occurred.
“This is very, very serious,” Rysst told NRK. “We must get to the bottom of this. We should never experience this in our branch.”
The cause of the fire remained unclear Monday night, but an Equinor official claimed preparedness and response time to the blaze was good. Melkøya had just restarted operations after four weeks of maintenance work.
Police received the first reports of open flames in the production plant at 3:41 pm Monday. Fire boats spraying water from the sea eventually doused the flames, and from 7pm the emergency crews were dealing with cooling down the site.
“We view this very seriously,” an Equinor spokesman, Eskil Eriksen, told NRK. “The plant has been shut down, in line with routines.” He couldn’t say how long Melkøya would be closed, nor could he reveal the extent of damage.
The Melkøya facility receives and processes gas from the Snow White field in the Norwegian Sea, from which the gas is transported in LNG carriers.