10 Nov 2009 22:21

Moldova's blast-torn natural gas pipeline repaired

CHISINAU. Nov 10 (Interfax) - The Moldovan section of a trunk pipeline delivering natural gas to the Balkans as well as supplying gas for two districts in Moldova had been repaired by Tuesday morning after being damaged by an explosion early on Sunday, the Moldova-Gaz company said on Tuesday.

Five teams of welders had been working nonstop for about 48 hours on the blast site in Causeni district to patch up the pipeline, which links the Ukrainian towns of Rozdilna and Izmail, Moldova-Gaz told Interfax.

Gas supply through the pipeline, which has a diameter of 820 millimeters, resumed.

The explosion did not break off gas supply for the Balkans as more gas was sent across through another arterial pipeline, one running from Shebelinka, Ukraine, to Izmail via the Ukrainian cities of Dnipropetrovsk and Kryvyi Rih.

However, 10 towns and villages in Causeni district and 24 in Moldova's Stefan-Voda district were left without gas.

The blast set off a fire and formed a crater 4 meters deep and with a diameter of 12 meters.

A government commission investigating the incident came to a preliminary conclusion that the pipe was too old.

"The second such explosion in several months is an alarming signal," said Prime Minister Vlad Filat, who visited the explosion site. "We must make every effort to prevent such incidents in the future."

Filat said towns and villages that had been left without gas would start receiving it by Tuesday evening and that "by the end of the week gas supply will resume on the full scale."

The premier said the pipeline had had its last technical inspection in 2005. After the checkup, Moldova-Gaz declared the pipeline to be in a good state and ruled out any explosion.

The site of the blast, which occurred around 4 a.m., lay in the vicinity of the villages of Saiti and Opaci, Causeni district.

Early on April 1, an explosion damaged the section of a trunk pipeline that runs through Moldova's breakaway Transdniestria region and is a transit facility for Russian gas exported to the Balkans.

The pipeline, which connects Ananyiv, Ukraine, to Izmail and passes through the Transdniestrian capital, Tiraspol, has a diameter of 1.2 meters. Its Transdniestrian section lies underground at a depth of 2 meters.

The site of the blast lay in a field between the villages of Chitcani and Chircaiesti, several kilometers from Tiraspol.

Experts said the explosion had been caused either by a poor welding seam or by a mudslide.

The pipeline took a week to repair.