Modifications are under way at Statoil's Mongstad crude oil refinery near Bergen to boost its capacity for processing lighter crudes.
Part of the Vestprosess project operated by Statoil, this work began on 12 May and will continue for 28 days during the 1999 turnaround at the refinery. The crude oil facility will be shut in for this period.
Annual refining capacity is due to be boosted from eight million tonnes of crude oil to 10 million tonnes.
To handle lighter crudes, the principal distillation column - which forms the heart of the refinery - must be given a new lining.
Other columns, tanks, heat exchangers and pumps are also due to be modified, along with associated piping systems.
The biggest challenge will be modifying the interior of the columns because access is limited, says Oliver Ulvøy, manager of the Mongstad part of Vestprosess.
About 450 people are involved in the refinery conversion, with Netherlands-based Raytheon Engineers & Constructors as the main contractor. The latter has in turn hired a number of sub-contractors from Norway and other parts of Europe.
Extra attention is being paid to safety and the environment during this hectic period.
Plans call for the crude oil refinery to be back in operation on 8 June.
Work will then begin on cooling down a 60,000-cubic-metre rock cavern in order to store liquid propane at -43°C. A refrigeration plant with two big compressors will cool down the propane store and butane during loading.
The whole Vestprosess project is due to be completed on 1 October.
This development will allow the Mongstad refinery to make better use of the lighter components in crude oil and to sell them as separate products.
Large consignments of liquefied petroleum gases will be available for delivery from the modified facility, for instance.