Finland Gas Pipe Leak Probe Proceeds on Premise of Sabotage

(Bloomberg) — A probe into a leak from an undersea gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia is proceeding on the assumption that it was a deliberate act of destruction, according to people familiar with the matter.

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There are no final conclusions, the people said. Officials are expected to give more details on the investigation later on Tuesday. European gas prices rose as much as 12%.

An “unusual” drop in pressure in the pipeline prompted the operators to halt flows early on Sunday, with the neighboring countries starting an inspection.

The gas leak was in Finnish waters, according to one of the people.

The Finnish government said in a statement Tuesday that it located the damaged area of the gas pipe and that it also detected a fault in a communication cable to Estonia. Officials scheduled a news conference for 5:30 p.m. Helsinki time.

Read More: Finland and Estonia to Inspect Suspected Gas Pipeline Leak

Russia terminated gas supply to Finland in May 2022, about a week after the Nordic country said it would apply for membership in NATO in response to the war Russia started in Ukraine. Finland had also refused to pay for gas in rubles, and later decided to stop purchasing Russian fuel altogether. Finland has now joined the defense alliance.

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The leak on the gas interconnector has revived concerns about the vulnerability of undersea infrastructure following the blasts on the nearby Nord Stream pipelines from Russia to Germany last year.

“When it comes to gas, Europe is in for a safe winter. However, this hinges on the integrity of its pipeline and LNG infrastructure,” Simone Tagliapietra, a senior fellow at the Bruegel think tank in Brussels, said on the X social media platform. “Sabotage or disruptions could have severe consequences.”

Since those attacks, North Atlantic Treaty Organization members have increased monitoring using satellites, aircraft, ships and submarines, with assets in the North Sea and Baltic Sea seen among most sensitive.

The Balticconnector pipeline was taken into use just over three years ago.

While the Baltic nations and Finland have reduced reliance on Russian gas even before cutting off imports from their eastern neighbor, they increasingly depend on liquefied natural gas, primarily from the US. The interconnector linked the new LNG import terminal in Finland with Estonia, and similar floating terminals have been set up across Europe over the past year, including in Germany.

–With assistance from Elena Mazneva, Leo Laikola, Anna Shiryaevskaya and Kevin Whitelaw.

(Updates with gas price, Finnish statement from second paragraph.)

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