Finland's New LNG Terminals Can Compensate for Balticconnector Pipeline Loss

(Reuters) — Two new terminals for importing LNG to Finland have enough capacity to cover peak winter demand, making up for supply lost via the damaged Balticconnector pipeline, market observers said on Wednesday.

The Balticconnector pipeline connecting Finland and Estonia, which can transport around 80 gigawatt hours (GWh) of gas per day, will be out of operation at least until April 2024 after the Finnish government said it was damaged on Sunday by what was likely to have been "outside activity".

The news contributed to a surge in European wholesale natural gas prices, with the benchmark Dutch TTF front-month contract on Tuesday hitting a 6-month high of 52 euros per megawatt hour (MWh), LSEG data showed.

"The Balticconnector is important infrastructure but for the security of supply, the Finnish gas market can also rely on LNG supplies," Janne Gronlund, head of the transmission system at Finland's Gasgrid said.

Finland opened the small Hamina LNG site last year, which can feed 6 GWh of gas per day into the grid.

The bigger floating (FSRU) Inkoo LNG terminal started operations in March, capable of storing 1,000 GWh of energy and injecting around 140 GWh/day per day into the grid.

The FSRU was deployed to replace gas supplies from Russia which were cut in the wake of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

"We estimate currently that the winter peaks might be somewhere around 100 GWh/day, meaning that Inkoo by itself could handle the whole market need but then we have also have Hamina," Gronlund said.

New bookings for import slots at Inkoo are suspended until Oct. 17, to allow the market to digest all the information about the Balticconnector incident, he added, such as for how long the pipeline will be out of action.

"Market participants will make big commitments as they book the cargos, so we need to give accurate information or at least accurate enough information for them so that it's fair for the market," he said.

A September update by Gasgrid showed that only three out of 15 slots the fourth quarter this year and first quarter 2024 had been booked.

One of these, a slot for Oct. 15, was reserved by gas supplier Gasum.

"We booked 5 slots for this gas year and this is the first one. The next ones were booked for Q2 and Q3 2024," a Gasum spokesperson told Reuters.

A gas year runs from Oct. 1 until Sept. 30.

For now, the Finnish gas market is stable and Gasum was able to deliver gas to its customers from Inkoo, while it is also following the situation closely together with relevant authorities and other stakeholders, she added.

The biggest importer at Inkoo to date has been Eesti Gas, which supplies customers across the Baltic and Nordics.

The company this year has tripled its LNG supplies to both Inkoo and Klaipeda, a floating LNG terminal in Lithuania, to 16 from 5 last year, it said in a statement on Tuesday.

"One shipload of gas makes up about a quarter of Estonia's annual gas consumption," it said.

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