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By Nerijus Adomaitis and Ron Bousso

Norway inspects subsea gas pipeline after Nord Stream blasts

FILE PHOTO: Equinor's flag in Stavanger, Norway December 5, 2019. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

Norway has deployed a specialist vessel to inspect a subsea gas pipeline to Germany because of safety concerns after suspected sabotage last month on two Nord Stream pipelines between Russia and Germany, according to sources and data.

Norway, Europe's largest gas supplier, last week put its energy sector on high alert, deploying its navy and air force to patrol offshore facilities and placing soldiers at onshore gas processing plants after the Sept. 26 Nord Stream blasts.

The Havila Subsea, an oil service vessel equipped with remotely operated subsea vehicles, was deployed on Oct. 5 to survey the Europipe II pipeline that runs from the Kaarstoe gas plant in Norway to Dornum in Germany, Refinitiv vessel-tracking data shows.

Jostein Alendal, chief executive of Reach Subsea, which operates Havila Subsea, told Reuters the inspection was ordered by Equinor, which carries out pipeline inspections on behalf of offshore gas system operator Gassco.

"For security considerations, we cannot go into detail about specific measures," a Gassco spokesperson said in an email.

Equinor said in an emailed statement to Reuters that "the security level has been raised for installations and infrastructure on the NCS (Norwegian Continental Shelf)" and that precautionary measures have been taken relating to the pipeline network.

The company said it did not want to provide further detail because of security considerations. It added, however, that it does carry out pipeline surveys on behalf of Gassco.

Norway's military declined to comment on offshore pipeline surveys or other specific offshore security measures.

"Knowledge about these measures makes it easier for an actor to avoid them," a military spokesperson said in an email.

Europipe II is possibly the most important Norwegian pipeline, said Tor Ivar Stroemmen, a senior lecturer at the Royal Norwegian Naval Academy.

"A major interruption of the flow of gas to Germany could cause political pressures changing the dynamics of the ongoing stand-off with Russia," Stroemmen said.

An industry source told Reuters that Norway is inspecting critical oil and gas infrastructure, including pipelines, for possible explosives or sabotage attempts.

Germany, Europe's largest economy, relied heavily on Russian gas supplies from Russia until supplies were cut after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The 658km Europipe II has capacity of 71 million cubic metres (mcm) of gas per day, about a fifth of Norway's total pipeline exports.

Sweden's Security Service said on Thursday that a crime scene investigation of the two pipelines has strengthened suspicions of "gross sabotage" involving detonations.

(Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis and Ron Bousso; Additional reporting by Gwladys Fouche in Oslo; Editing by David Goodman)

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