Damage to Finland-Estonia offshore gas pipeline likely caused by external activity, Finland says

The damage to the Balticconnector gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia was not caused by the normal gas transmission process, Finnish transmission system operator (TSO) Gasgrid reported following the launch of an investigation into a leak announced earlier this week.

Gasgrid Finland informed that the location of the leak in the Balticconnector pipeline causing disruption in gas transmission was identified in Finland’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) on October 10.

Based on information from the Finnish Border Guard, the TSO has given its expert assessment according to which the damage was not caused by the normal gas transmission process.

Furthermore, on October 8, the Finnish authorities were also informed of a fault detected in the telecommunications cable between the two countries, which continues to operate normally. According to the government, it is very likely that the fault is located in Estonia’s EEZ, but the Estonian Navy, in charge of investigating the incident, has not yet been able to confirm the matter.

In a statement, the President of Finland Sauli Niinistö said that it is likely that the damage to both the gas pipeline and the data cable was caused by external activity, however, what specifically caused this is not yet known.

“The damage to the underwater infrastructure has been taken seriously and its causes have been investigated since Sunday. The political leadership has been closely informed of the situation,” Niinistö said.

“The investigation will continue in cooperation between Finland and Estonia. We are also in constant contact with our allies and partners. Finland’s level of preparedness is good. These events have no impact on our security of supply.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced that NATO was ready to contribute to the investigation.

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Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation is in charge of investigating the incident, supported by the Border Guard and other authorities.

The goal of the inspection, set to be carried out in stages during this week, is to get an accurate understanding of the condition of the entire offshore pipeline, after which it is possible to start planning repairs and their schedule. Estimates say that it will take months to repair the gas pipeline.

Gasgrid confirmed that a disruption in the supply of pipeline gas will not cause immediate problems to the security of energy supply and the situation remains stable, however, the outage may slightly increase the price of gas, but it is not expected to have much effect on the price of electricity in Finland. The power cables Estlink 1 and 2 between Finland and Estonia are operating normally.

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To remind, the Balticconnector gas pipeline was shut down at midnight on October 8 when Gasgrid and the Estonian TSO Elering detected a breach.

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The supply of gas has been secured through the Inkoo LNG floating terminal which has the capacity and ability to deliver the gas Finland needs in the coming winter.

Balticconnector is the first gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia. The project, which entered into commercial use at the start of 2020, ends Finland’s isolation from the EU gas market and helps ensure the energy security of supply in the region. 

The 152-kilometer-long gas pipeline is bi-directional and has a transmission capacity of 7.2 million cubic meters of gas per day.