Finland Says Pipeline Leak Likely Caused by Mechanical Force

Finnish investigators said that a gas pipeline in the Gulf of Finland was most likely ruptured by a deliberate act of force rather than an explosion.

(Bloomberg) — Finnish investigators said that a gas pipeline in the Gulf of Finland was most likely ruptured by a deliberate act of force rather than an explosion.  

The investigation is proceeding on the basis of “gross vandalism,” though it’s too early to exclude any possibility from the investigation, Risto Lohi, a detective superintendent at Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation, said at a news conference on Wednesday.

Norway’s police tightened security around the energy installations on the country’s western coast after the suspected act of sabotage over the weekend revived fears about the safety of Europe’s energy infrastructure.

Police in the West district, where strategic facilities include the Mongstad refinery, added preventative patrols, Steinar Hausvik, police duty officer, said in a phone interview Wednesday. He declined to provide further details.

Energy and Oil Minister Terje Aasland, speaking in a separate interview, said the country’s navy and energy giant Equinor ASA are in dialog over measures, while the authorities are “constantly considering the security level.”

Norway is a key energy supplier to Europe, becoming the region’s biggest source of natural gas after Russian flows slumped following the invasion of Ukraine. The incident that stopped gas flows in the Balticconnector pipe between Finland and Estonia has revived concerns about the safety of energy infrastructure in Europe, a year after similar events affecting the Nord Stream pipeline in the Baltic Sea.

Read More: NATO Pledges Response If Finland Pipeline Damage Intentional

Gasgrid Finland Oy said the repairs on the 77-kilometer (48-mile) pipeline, which started leaking at the weekend, will last at least five months, citing a preliminary expert assessment in a statement on Wednesday. That means the earliest commissioning date of the Balticconnector pipe would be next April, it said.

Estonia is investigating a rupture of a communications cable in its economic waters and has established a broader joint probe with Finland to look into both incidents. The country’s defense minister said NATO and the UK have offered to help. 

“Tt seems we have the necessary resources and the necessary means to conduct the investigation,” Hanno Pevkur said in an interview with Bloomberg. “Of course we will inform our allies, what the situation is, what the next steps, what is the perspective etc. Let’s see how it evolves but at the moment it seems we can move with these actions what we have agreed with Finns.”

NATO defense ministers were due to discuss the incidents at a meeting in Brussels, according to the alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. He cautioned earlier that any deliberate damage to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s critical infrastructure would warrant a response. People familiar with the matter said on Tuesday the investigation is proceeding on the basis that it was sabotage.

–With assistance from Natalia Drozdiak.

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