Home Commodities Russian operator blames ‘external action’ for fire at Baltic gas terminal

Russian operator blames ‘external action’ for fire at Baltic gas terminal

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Operations were suspended at a major gas terminal on the outskirts of St Petersburg after a large fire broke out which the Russian operator said had been caused by “external action”.

Novatek, Russia’s second-largest natural gas producer, said it had stopped operations at the Ust-Luga terminal on the Baltic Sea after the incident, and local officials reported “explosions” at the plant.

Ukraine has hinted at responsibility for a series of attacks on Russian infrastructure, weapons production plants and other targets, but rarely openly claims responsibility for the attacks. The recent incidents have taken place deep in Russia and far from the front line in Ukraine, suggesting that kyiv has been able to expand its reach to counter its invader.

The Ust-Luga incident follows a recent drone attack on an oil terminal in St. Petersburg and another on a gunpowder manufacturer and an oil depot in the Bryansk region, which borders eastern Ukraine.

Sources with knowledge of those attacks said they were carried out by Ukraine’s military intelligence directorate, the GUR, using domestically produced unmanned aerial vehicles. The two incidents in St. Petersburg are the first to affect Russia’s second-largest city since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine almost two years ago.

Ust-Luga is a key node in Russia’s energy export system and includes a gas processing plant and a major port for shipping oil products abroad. Novatek processed 7 million tonnes of fuel-stable gas condensate at the complex last year.

“Tonight a fire broke out at the production facilities of the Novatek-Ust-Luga production complex. According to preliminary information, the fire was the result of external action,” Russian state news agency Ria quoted Novatek as saying, adding that a 100 cubic meter tanker was on fire, but that the fire had been “localized.”

A video shared on social media in the early hours of Sunday showed workers running from a tower of flames. Local officials cited by Ria said two explosions had hit the plant.

“A drone flies over the base!” A man can be heard saying in a video shared by the Baza Telegram channel that he is believed to have links to Russian security services. A drone is visible in the night sky. In another video from Baza you can see a large explosion, and the sky turns orange over the place.

The explosion is unlikely to significantly affect Russia’s energy exports, as petroleum products account for only a relatively small part of them. The fire could have more serious consequences for Novatek, as Ust-Luga production accounts for around 40 percent of all its sales, both domestic and overseas, according to Novatek data for 2022.

However, the complex does not produce LNG, the importance of which for Russia has increased considerably since the loss of European gas markets.

Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov, the GUR’s military spy chief, told the Financial Times in an interview this week that his department would continue to attack Russia, in addition to carrying out its covert operations with commandos behind enemy lines.

The governor of the Leningrad region said there were no casualties as a result of the Ust-Luga fire and that all workers had been evacuated.

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