Finland gets floating LNG terminal to replace Russian gas

HELSINKI (AP) — Finland’s first floating liquefied natural gas terminal was moored Wednesday at the southern port of Inkoo where it will supply gas to the Nordic country that was cut off from Russian gas imports earlier this year amid the war in Ukraine.

The massive 291-meter-long and 43-meter-wide offshore support vessel Exemplar, which sailed to the Baltic Sea from Gibraltar and Spain earlier December, has a capacity of 68,000 tons of LNG and is scheduled to be operational from the beginning of 2023.

FSRU Exemplar, owned by the U.S. company Excelerate Energy Inc., will ensure future availability of gas in Finland, replacing supplies earlier imported from Russia, the state-owned Gasgrid Finland said, calling the move historic.

“Finland will permanently phase out its dependency on Russian gas and will greatly improve society’s security of supply,” said Gasgrid Finland CEO Olli Sipilä. ”The aim is that the terminal’s customers will begin to distribute gas to meet the needs of Finnish industry, energy production and households from mid-January 2023 onwards.”

The Finnish company tweeted a photo and said that the Exemplar "anchors safely“ at the Port of Inkoo, located about 60 kilometers (37 miles) west from the capital, Helsinki.

The vessel will reconvert LNG to gas which will then be fed into the Finnish network for distribution. The arrival of the Exemplar will also enable gas deliveries to the Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania — and possibly also to Poland through the undersea Balticconnector pipeline between Finland and Estonia that runs near Inkoo.

Russian energy giant Gazprom halted gas exports to neighboring Finland in May, citing Helsinki’s refusal to pay in rubles, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded European countries do since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Gazprom’s move marked a likely end to Finland’s nearly 50 years of importing natural gas from Russia. The two parallel Russia-Finland natural gas pipelines were launched in 1974.

Natural gas currently accounts for just some 5% of total energy consumption in Finland, a country of 5.5 million. Until May, nearly all of that gas came from Russia, and has been used mainly by Finnish industrial and other companies with only an estimated 4,000 households relying on gas heating.

As Moscow has cut off electricity exports to Finland — also in May — and the Finnish state-controlled oil company Neste has replaced imports of Russian crude oil with other sources, Finland’s energy ties with Russia are now all but gone.

Under a deal with the American provider of floating LNG terminals, Gasgrid Finland has leased the Exemplar for a period of ten years for an estimated total cost of 460 million euros ($490 million).

“The arrival of the FSRU Exemplar at the port of Inkoo represents an important milestone for Finland as it prepares to enhance its energy security and bring essential energy infrastructure to the region,” Steven Kobos, President and CEO of Excelerate Energy, said in a statement. “This is a tremendous accomplishment for everyone involved, and we are proud to have partnered with Gasgrid on this opportunity.”

European Union member Finland, which shares a 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) long border with Russia, applied to join NATO in May and is currently waiting for the remaining two members — Hungary and Turkey — of the military alliance to ratify its membership.

Jari Tanner, The Associated Press