On January 13th, a gas pipeline in the Pasvalys region of northern Lithuania exploded, raising questions on its cause and consequences. The explosion took place at around 17:00 (local time) and the fire was only extinguished four hours later.
Fortunately, the explosion did not cause any casualties and injuries. Nevertheless, safety precautions were taken around the area. The nearby village of Valakeliai was evacuated as a precaution, and several dozens of inhabitants temporarily left before it was deemed safe to return. Firefighters were also stationed in the village to prevent further spreading of the fire. However, at the time of writing, the highway next to the blast site still remains closed.
The explosion occurred on a special anniversary. The country broke away from the USSR and declared independence on the 13th of January, 1991.
The pipeline belongs to Lithuania’s national gas company, Amber Grid, and is used to transport natural gas to Latvia in the north. It was constructed in 1978 and consists of two parallel systems working in tandem. In the explosion, only one of the two systems was damaged. There has been recent maintenance work conducted on the pipeline, but it is still unclear whether that could have contributed to the detonation.
Currently, authorities believe the blast was not triggered by any external sabotage. According to Nemunas Biknius, head of Amber Grid, the main cause is thought to be a “welding seam that tore open”.
The pipeline transports natural gas from Klaipeda to Latvia in eastern Lithuania, the only major seaport in the country. Despite concerns regarding how the explosion could affect the export and transport of gas, Latvia’s minister of energy, Raimonds Cudars, has stated that the explosion has not caused any supply issues across the country. Exporting of gas has already restarted, but the nearby population in northern Lithuania is being supplied through alternative supply lines.
Since June 2022, Lithuania has banned the import of Russian gas following the war in Ukraine. Additionally, the Baltic country had connected itself to the European gas network along with Estonia and Latvia a month prior. Last year, The Baltic sea also experienced another gas-related incident – the destruction of the Nord Stream pipeline that was used to connect Russia and Germany.
Repairs on the damaged pipeline have already begun, and it should not be long before everything is back to normal in northern Lithuania.