Balticconnector Gas Pipeline Resumes Operations Following Damage

(Reuters) — A Baltic Sea gas pipeline that was torn apart last year in an incident still under police investigation has resumed commercial operation as planned after months of repair, operator Gasgrid Finland said on Monday.

The Balticconnector subsea gas link between Estonia and Finland was severely damaged in October along with three telecoms cables, hurting energy security and raising alarm bells in the wider region.

"I can already confirm that Balticconnector is operating normally," Gasgrid executive Janne Gronlund told Reuters.

Some 60-gigawatt hours of natural gas would flow from Finland to Estonia on Monday, he added.

Finnish police have named the Hong Kong-flagged NewNew Polar Bear container ship as the prime suspect in causing the damage, saying last year it was too early to tell if this was an accident or a deliberate act.

A large anchor, believed to belong to the Chinese vessel, was found near the pipeline, and the investigators said the pipe and the telecoms cables were likely broken as the anchor was dragged across the sea bed.

Finland has said it held constructive talks with China over the incident and that Chinese authorities had promised full cooperation in the pipeline probe.

"There is progress in the investigation, and we have cooperated with Chinese authorities in solving the case," Finland's National Bureau of Investigation told Reuters by email.

The Chinese vessels remains the focus of the probe, according to police.

"Container vessel NewNew Polar Bear and its anchor are considered to be connected to the pipeline damage," the NBI said, adding it would likely take months before final conclusions could be announced in the investigation.

China's embassy in Helsinki did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The damage to the Balticconnector happened one year after the explosions in 2022 that destroyed the larger Nord Stream pipelines, which transported Russian gas to Germany. No suspects have been named in those blasts.

Balticconnector is jointly operated by Estonian electricity and gas system operator Elering and Finnish gas transmission system operator Gasgrid, which each own half of the pipeline.

The pipeline has a bigger northbound transmission capacity following the repairs thanks to an enhancement of the Latvia-Lithuania gas interconnection, which allows for higher volumes to be transported around the region, Finland has said.

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