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Pipeline explosion in Lithuania – what we know thus far

On Frida, 13 January, an explosion hit a pipeline of the gas transmission system in northern Lithuania (Pasvalys district), connecting Lithuania with Latvia via two parallel pipelines.

As stated in a press release by the pipeline’s operator, Amber Grid, no one was injured in the incident and the ignited gas stopped burning after around four hours.

The explosion took place in only one of the pipelines, while the other parallel pipeline was not damaged. The gas supply to the damaged pipeline was immediately cut off and the fire burned until the gas in the pipeline section burned out.

Gas supply to the Pasvalys district and other consumers in Northern Lithuania is ensured through the parallel pipeline. Gas supply to Latvia was also restored on the same evening.

On Sunday, the section of the pipeline damaged in the incident was replaced and restored, according to the latest press release by Amber Grid. The damaged ten-metre-long pipeline was cut out, while a new section was installed and the installation seams were X-rayed. Other sections of the pipeline close to the incident site are currently being further inspected. Once all the inspection work has been completed, the gas supply will be resumed via the restored pipeline.

Cause of the explosion

As of early Monday morning, no official statement has been made regarding the confirmed cause of the incident. An announcement is expected to be published following the ongoing investigations by the Lithuanian law enforcement authorities, Lithuania’s National Energy Regulatory Council and the Amber Grid Expert Commission.

“The gas pipeline explosion in Lithuania must be carefully evaluated, even sabotage cannot be ruled out,” said Latvia’s Foreign and Defence Minister, Artis Pabriks via Twitter on Friday. However, according to Amber Grid’s preliminary assessment, the explosion was caused by “technical reasons” (for example, a rapture in the pipeline), potentially ruling out the possibility of an attack.

According to the CEO of Amber Grid, Nemunas Biknius, incidents of this kind in the gas transmission systems are rare.

“We regularly carry out inspections and internal diagnostics of gas pipelines with reliable devices that record precise parameters,” said Mr Biknius. “We follow international rules and practices and comply with rules and requirements in Lithuania. However, gas pipelines are potentially hazardous installations around the world and care must be taken when in their vicinity. Once the causes of the incident have been investigated, we will assess the possibility of improving the maintenance of gas pipelines to ensure that such incidents do not happen again.”

Impact on the regional gas supply

According to Latvian media reports, the Latvian natural gas transmission and storage operator, Conexus Baltic Grid, confirmed that the gas supply in the country has not been disrupted as supplies are provided from the Inčukalns underground storage facility. This is expected to continue until the supply from Lithuania is fully recovered, according to Latvia’s Climate and Energy Minister, Raimonds Čudars.

The explosion also appears not to have had an impact on Lithuania’s Western neighbour, Poland.

“The explosion of the gas pipeline connecting Lithuania and Latvia in no way affects the gas system and the security of supplies to Poland. We are safe. GAZ-SYSTEM is monitoring the situation, we are in contact with European partners,” said the Polish Climate and Energy Minister, Anna Moskwa via Twitter on Friday.

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