Angola LNG shut due to technical problems, restart time unknown

Reuters

* $10 billion project has suffered technical setbacks

* Company denies report of explosion at plant

* Says restart time to be determined by investigation

By Shrikesh Laxmidas

LUANDA, April 25 (Reuters) - Angola's new liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant has been forced to shut down production due to unspecified technical problems, a spokesman said on Friday, but he denied a report of an explosion at the plant.

The spokesman also said it was not yet known when production will be resumed.

The $10 billion Angola LNG plant, operated by Chevron , has struggled to boost output since starting up last year and has suffered setbacks including a compressor leak, a rig capsize, electrical fires, and pipeline leaks.

"The plant has experienced technical issues which has caused an unplanned interruption to production," the spokesman said.

"No explosion, fire or injuries were caused as a result of this unplanned interruption, and the plant was safely shutdown in a controlled manner," he added.

An investigation into the cause of the technical problems is under way.

"Angola LNG is not able to comment on the next production date," the spokesman said. "This will be determined by the investigation findings."

He added that the technical problems are being addressed to allow the plant to continue ramping up production.

Chevron has said it does not expect the plant to operate above 50 percent capacity this year.

Only a dozen cargoes have been shipped since the first export in June, frustrating global buyers as Angola initially promised to alleviate supply shortages while demand grew.

Sources linked to the project told Reuters this week that Angola LNG had brought forward a two-month maintenance period initially set to start in July, but did not provide reasons.

Chevron has a 36.4 percent share in the plant, while Angolan state oil firm Sonangol has 22.8 percent. Other stakeholders include Total, BP and ENI.

(Reporting by Shrikesh Laxmidas; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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