With offshore repairs done, Balticconnector about to restart after six-month shut-down

Preparatory work has begun for the commissioning of the Balticconnector gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia which was shut down in October 2023 due to a rupture, following the completion of repair work.

Estonian transmission system operator (TSO) Elering and its Finnish counterpart Gasgrid closed Balticconnector on the night of October 8, 2023, as the pressure in the gas pipeline began to drop rapidly, indicating a leak. A few days later, it was reported that the gas pipeline had broken due to external damage in Finland’s economic zone.

Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) clarified the cause of the damage, stating that the Newnew Polar Bear vessel, flying the flag of Hong Kong, is believed to have caused it, after an anchor was found a few meters from the gas pipeline damage point.

Elering reported on April 4 that the repairs of the Balticconnector offshore pipeline had been completed according to plans, and the integrity and strength of the pipe had been tested with a water pressure test. Alongside the sea operation, the preparatory work phases for the pipeline’s commissioning have also begun, the implementation of which will take place from land areas in Estonia and Finland.

The commissioning implies a couple of phases, including first flushing the pipeline with purified water, after which the pipe is emptied of water, and its geometry is inspected internally. Following the inspection, the pipe is dried and filled with gas.

After the preparatory works are completed, the actual commissioning will begin. The commissioning is estimated to be completed on April 22, when the pipeline connection can be returned to the use of the gas market.

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 works comprised the construction of three pipeline sections, including the 21-kilometer-long onshore pipeline in Finland, the 77-kilometer-long offshore pipeline, and the 54-kilometer-long onshore pipeline in Estonia as well as the installation of a pressure reduction station in Estonia and compressor and metering stations in both countries.

The 152-kilometer-long gas pipeline is bi-directional and has a transmission capacity of 7.2 million cubic meters of gas per day. At the end of 2023, Gasgrid and Elering revealed an increase in the technical capacity of the Balticconnector interconnection point, which will come after the recommissioning of the pipeline, and completion of inspection and maintenance works in the Estonian-Latvian system.