Finland said that the damage to the Balticconnector offshore gas pipeline was likely caused by “external activity”.
Finland’s gas system and LNG terminal operator Gasgrid and Estonian gas system operator Elering shut down the gas pipeline on October 8 due to a suspected leak.
The 77 kilometers offshore bi-directional pipeline with a capacity of 2.6 bcm stretches from Paldiski, Estonia, to Inkoo, Finland where Gasgrid’s FSRU-based LNG import terminal is located.
Besides the offhore section, the pipeline includes land-based sections in Finland and Estonia.
“It is likely that the damage to both the gas pipeline and the data cable is caused by external activity. What specifically caused the damage is not yet known,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said in a statement issued on Tuesday.
According to a separate statement posted by the Finnish government, Gasgrid informed the authorities that the breach is located in Finland’s economic zone.
“The location of the leak in the Balticconnector gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia was identified in Finland’s exclusive economic zone on October 10, 2023,” the statement said.
“Based on information from the Finnish Border Guard, Gasgrid Finland has given its expert assessment according to which the damage was not caused by the normal gas transmission process,” it said.
Gasgrid estimates that it will take months to repair the gas pipeline, the statement said.
Norwegian research foundation Norsar said in a report it has analyzed data from the Finnish seismic network.
“Data shows a clear event at 01:20, Finnish time, which corresponds with the approximate time that the media reports a drop in pressure in the pipeline,” it said.
According to the firm, the event has been located about 40 km north of Paldiski, Estonia close to where the Balticconnector crosses the Nord Stream 1 pipeline.
“The magnitude of the event has been estimated at 1.0 on the Richter scale, which is much lower than the Nord Stream explosion detected in September 2022,” it said.
“Based on preliminary expert assessments, it can be assumed that the planning of the repair work, the mobilization of the necessary underwater equipment and the actual repair measures, including the inspection of the repaired pipe section and commissioning, will last at least five months,” Gasgrid said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
Therefore, the earliest possible commissioning date of the Balticconnector would be at the beginning of April 2024, it said.
Gasgrid said that the inspection operations of the offshore pipeline will continue to focus on the rest of the pipeline.
“The goal of the inspection operation is to get an accurate understanding of the condition of the entire offshore pipeline,” the firm said.
In cooperation with Elering, the inspection operation will be carried out in stages during this week.
Gagrid said that state of the Finnish gas system is “stable”.
The firm said that supply of gas has been secured through the Inkoo floating LNG terminal.
The terminal has the capacity and the ability to deliver the gas Finland needs, including in the coming winter, it said.
“Market players have been instructed to ensure the gas supply they need by ordering it to Inko or the Hamina LNG terminal, so that the continuity of the gas supply is secured in the coming winter season,” Gasgrid said.
Excelerate Energy’s 150,900-cbm FSRU Exemplar, which serves the Inkoo terminal, has a regasification capacity of more than 5 bcm per year.
In addition to supplying regasified LNG to Finland, the LNG terminal’s biggest customer is Estonia’s Eesti Gaas.
Eesti Gaas received the first LNG cargo via the FSRU Exemplar in April from the US.
It previously said that it plans to receive 11 LNG cargoes via the Inkoo FSRU this year. Eesti Gaas recently received the tenth planned cargo.
(Updated with a statement by Gasgrid on October 12.)