December 2, 2023

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Finland says “external activity” will likely damage gas pipeline and communications cables

Finland says “external activity” will likely damage gas pipeline and communications cables

A model of a natural gas pipeline and a Finland flag, July 18, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvik/Illustration/File photo Obtaining licensing rights

OSLO (Reuters) – An undersea gas pipeline and a communications cable linking Finland and Estonia under the Baltic Sea have been damaged in what may have been an intentional act, the Finnish government said on Tuesday.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO was sharing its information on the damage and stood ready to support the Allies involved.

The Baltic Connector gas pipeline was closed early Sunday due to fears of gas leaking from a hole in the 77-kilometre-long pipeline. Finnish operator Gasgrid said it could take a while months or more Repair.

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said in a statement, “The damage to both the gas pipeline and the communications cable is likely the result of external activity. The cause of the damage is not yet clear. The investigation is continuing in cooperation between Finland and Estonia.” Statement on Tuesday.

Finnish Prime Minister Petri Orbo’s office said on Tuesday that he would hold a press conference at 1430 GMT.

“The drop in pipeline pressure was very rapid, which indicates that it is not a simple breach. But its cause is still unclear,” said a Baltic energy sector official familiar with the situation who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The pipeline between Enko in Finland and Paldiski in Estonia crosses the Gulf of Finland, an arm of the Baltic Sea that extends east into Russian waters and terminates in the port of St. Petersburg.

A spokesman for Estonian gas system operator Ellering said on Monday that any possible causes for the power outages could not be ruled out at this time, including sabotage.

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In 2022, the larger Nord Stream gas pipelines crossing the Baltic Sea between Russia and Germany were damaged by explosions that authorities said were deliberate acts of sabotage.

The Balticconnector pipeline was opened in December 2019 to help integrate the region’s gas markets, giving Finland and the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania more supply flexibility.

Both Ellering and Jasgrid said they do not expect gas shortages even if the pipeline remains inoperable through the winter.

Last year, Finland rented a floating storage and reconversion unit to receive liquefied natural gas, to replace supplies from Russia that were cut off following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

LSEG data shows that most of Finland’s LNG imports come from the United States.

The Exemplar FSRU vessel is located in Inkoo and has supplied gas to Estonia via the Balticconnector.

A source familiar with gas supplies in the Baltic region said, “(It) is not a big deal for Estonia and Latvia because they have a lot of gas stored in Latvian warehouses, but the Finns will not be able to get their gas from Latvian warehouses.”

The national gasgrid company said in a statement that Finland has a second LNG import terminal in Hamina, and “continuity of gas supplies is being ensured in the next winter season.”

Finnish telecom company Elissa said separately that the damaged cable was primarily used for backup purposes and that the company’s services were not disrupted.

Nordic neighbors and the Baltic states have also offered to help.

“Sweden stands with our colleagues in the Nordic Baltic states and is ready to provide any assistance regarding damage to undersea infrastructure between Finland and Estonia,” Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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Latvian President Edgar Rinkević expressed “our solidarity and support” to Finland and Estonia.

(Reporting by Terje Solsvik and Nerijus Adumaitis in Oslo, Anne Kuranen in Helsinki, Anna Ringström in Stockholm, Andrius Sittas in Vilnius, Marta Frakowiak in Gdansk, Louise Rasmussen in Copenhagen, and Julia Payne and Bart Meijer in Brussels – Prepared by Muhammad for the Arabic Bulletin – Editing by Ahmed Hassan ) Edited by Gwladys Foch and Susan Fenton

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