Gas pipeline connecting Finland and Estonia damaged by 'outside activity'

Nato set to investigate incident as gas prices soared on Tuesday

The compression station of the Balticconnector marine gas pipeline in Inkoo, Finland. Photo: Lehtikuva / Mikko Stig
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Damage to a subsea gas pipeline and a telecoms cable connecting Finland and Estonia may have been caused by a deliberate “outside act”, officials said on Tuesday.

The Balticconnector pipeline was shut early on Sunday amid concerns that gas was leaking from a hole in the 77-kilometre pipeline.

Finland's President Sauli Niinisto said the damage could have been caused deliberately.

“It is likely that damage to both the gas pipeline and the communication cable is the result of outside activity,” he said in a statement.

“Today I spoke with Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Nato stands ready to assist in the investigations.”

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said that a preliminary assessment suggested that "the discovered damage could not have been caused by normal use of the pipeline or pressure fluctuations."

He said that the leak was located in the Finnish Exclusive Economic Zone.

When asked about the likelihood of Russian involvement, Mr Orpo said it was important to "gather all the information that is available and not to jump to conclusions at this stage."

Head of the investigation department at the National Bureau of Investigation, Timo Kilpelainen, said there were "no indications that explosives were used in the act."

Finnish operator Gasgrid said it could take months or more to repair the pipeline.

The pipeline between Inkoo in Finland and Paldiski in Estonia crosses the Gulf of Finland, an arm of the Baltic Sea that stretches eastward into Russian waters and ends at the port of St Petersburg.

“The fall in pipeline pressure was quite fast, which would indicate it's not a minor breach. But the cause of it remains unclear,” a Baltic energy official said.

On Monday, a representative for Estonian gas system operator Elering said “no potential causes” for the damage could be ruled out for the time being, including sabotage.

UK gas prices soared on Tuesday after the announcement, with prices jumping from 12.7 per cent to 123.2p per therm, reaching the highest level for about two weeks.

Citing sources in the Finnish government, Swedish Radio said that the gas pipeline was not damaged naturally.

Researchers in Estonia are also reported not to have noticed any seismological activity that could have caused an explosion.

The operators of the pipeline said that they had noticed an unusual drop in pressure at about 2am local time.

The Balticonnector pipeline, which opened in 2020, is used to send gas between Estonia and Finland, depending on which country is most in need at any point.

Both countries said that their energy security was not under threat due to the potential leak.

The incident comes a little more than a year after explosions hit the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines in the Baltic, which transported gas from Russia to Germany.

Updated: October 10, 2023, 3:41 PM