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Finland replaces Russian gas with Baltic link

Finnish network operator Gasgrid says that gas supplies to Finland remain steady despite Saturday's Russian cut-off.

A Gasum plant in Räikkölä, Imatra, eastern Finland on 12 May. Most fossil gas imported from Russia came to Finland via the border town of Imatra. Image: Lehtikuva

The supply of natural gas from Russia to Finland ended on Saturday morning, according to Olli Sipilä, CEO of the gas network company Gasgrid. Sipilä said that gas has instead begun flowing to Finland from the Baltics and the switchover has gone smoothly.

"The Finnish system is currently in balance, commercially and physically. Of course, something can always happen; technical failures may occur in the system. That’s a normal activity that we aim to control to the best of our ability, but we don't expect any problems," he told Yle.

Russian energy giant Gazprom warned the Finnish state-owned Gasum on Friday that gas supplies would be halted due to Finland's refusal to pay for it in roubles as Moscow has demanded. Gasum predicted the cut-off last Wednesday.

The shutoff came a week after Russia cut off its remaining electricity supply to Finland, which accounted for about 10 percent of Finnish consumption. Fingrid said that the move would push up the cost of electricity, which has already risen significantly this year.

As of Saturday, Gasum is importing fossil gas through the Balticconnector pipeline, which links Inkoo on Finland's south coast with Paldiski, Estonia.

According to Estonian public broadcaster ERR (siirryt toiseen palveluun), Paldiski is supplied from Poland through Latvia and Lithuania. Russia cut off gas supplies to Poland in late April after it refused to pay in roubles. Along with its domestic production, Poland imports gas from other European countries.

Polish deputy foreign minister Marcin Przdacz told the BBC there were "options to get the gas from other partners," including the US and gulf nations. On Friday Poland proposed cooperation with Portugal on potential LNG trans-shipping in order to help other countries cut their dependence on Russia.

According to Jukka Leskelä, managing director of the Finnish Energy industry association, the interruption of gas imports from Russia is "not a big deal" for the Finnish energy system. For some individual companies, it may cause difficulties in the future, but not within the next few months.

In the past, as much as 90 percent of the gas imported to Finland has come from Russia, but gas only accounted for six percent of the total industrial energy consumption, said Finnish Energy.

American LNG terminal ship on the way

On Friday the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Finance held a briefing on Finland's preparations for the shutoff of Russian gas. The same day, Gasgrid Finland signed a deal with the Texas-based Excelerate Energy to lease the LNG terminal vessel Exemplar for 10 years. The ship will help cover Finland's gas needs in the event of any shortfalls.

Gazprom supplied about 1.5 billion cubic metres of gas to Finland last year. That accounted for about two thirds of the country's gas consumption but only eight percent of its total energy use.

Moscow cut off gas to Poland and Bulgaria last month in a move the EU described as "blackmail", but importers in some other EU countries more dependent on Russian gas plan to open rouble accounts with Gazprom's bank.

On Friday Germany and Italy told companies they could open rouble accounts to keep buying Russian gas without breaching sanctions against Moscow following discussions with the EU, Reuters reported.

22.5: Updated with information about gas supply from Poland.