Finland is on alert as it suspects a gas pipeline leak in the Baltic Sea was caused by a deliberate act of destruction, fueling concerns about the safety of Europe’s energy infrastructure.
(Bloomberg) — Finland is on alert as it suspects a gas pipeline leak in the Baltic Sea was caused by a deliberate act of destruction, fueling concerns about the safety of Europe’s energy infrastructure.
The gas pipeline connecting NATO members Finland and Estonia started leaking at the weekend, and people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday the investigation is proceeding on the basis that it was sabotage. Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said it was caused by an “external source” as he declined to speculate who may be responsible.
“It makes sense to increase our security of supply, secure critical infrastructure,” Orpo told reporters in Helsinki. “The wise prepare. If something like this, so far inexplicable, happens, then it can also happen again.”
European gas prices jumped, as the leak revived concerns about the vulnerability of energy infrastructure particularly in the context of the war in Ukraine. Following the explosions on the Nord Stream pipelines from Russia to Germany last year — for which responsibility has yet to be determined — European countries have stepped up defense of their key assets.
While the rupture of the pipeline is not significant for the wider European gas market, it raises questions about security of supply just as Europe goes into winter. Russia halted gas flows to Finland in May 2022, about a week after the Nordic country said it would apply for NATO membership in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
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Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto spoke to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday, and the group said it’s sharing information and “stands ready” to support its allies. The Estonian and Finnish ambassadors to NATO briefed allies. An undersea telecoms cable between the two countries has also been damaged.
NATO members have increased monitoring of energy assets using satellites, aircraft, ships and submarines, with sites in the North Sea and Baltic Sea seen as among the most sensitive. NATO also created an “undersea infrastructure coordination cell” earlier this year to deepen ties between governments, military and industry.
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Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation has opened a criminal case into the pipeline incident, and said the size of the damage points to it being intentional.
The pipeline lies about 60 meters (197 feet) deep, according to Estonian officials, and the leak was detected in the Gulf of Finland. It’s in Finland’s so-called exclusive economic zone that spans 200 nautical miles from the coast but outside its territorial waters — a distinction that may prove important as countries weigh their response.
The Balticconnector was put into use just over three years ago to link a new liquefied natural gas import terminal in Finland with Estonia. The region now increasingly brings liquefied natural gas from the US, even as gas accounts for just 3.5% of Finland’s energy mix.
Gasgrid Finland estimates that it will take months to repair.
–With assistance from Elena Mazneva, Leo Laikola and Anna Shiryaevskaya.
(Updates with further comments from Finland’s government from fourth paragraph.)
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