September 14, 2010 / 3:48 PM / in 7 years

UPDATE 1-Blast ruptures Russia-Turkey gas pipeline in Bulgaria

* Gas flows to Turkey not affected-Bulgartansgaz

* Bad pipes, bad construction most probable cause for blast

(Adds Bulgartansgaz comment)

SOFIA, Sept 14 (Reuters) - An explosion ripped through a pipeline in southeastern Bulgaria carrying Russian natural gas to Turkey late on Monday, but did not affect gas flows to Ankara, officials said on Tuesday.

The blast, probably caused by a technical malfunction, occurred at about 4 p.m (1300 GMT) on Monday near the village of Gorna Poliana, close to the border with Turkey, they said.

“The blast destroyed 15 metres of the pipeline... and created a big crater. No one was injured by the explosion,” regional police at city of Yambol said in a statement.

Bulgarian natural gas network operator Bulgartansgaz said gas flows to Turkey were halted only for a few hours on Monday to extinguish the fire and now the operator was using an alternative pipeline link for the transit.

“The transit gas flows are not halted at present because we have two gas pipelines in the area and we are using the other link,” Ivan Drenovichki, Ivan Drenovichki, executive director of Bulgartransgas, told Reuters.

“The contract with Gazprom for transit will not be breached,” he said.

Russia’s Gazprom (GAZP.MM) transits an annual 13.5-14 billion cubic metres of natural gas to Turkey through the damaged Bulgarian gas link.

Drenovichki said the repair works of the pipeline, in operation since 1999, will be completed by the end of the week.

He said the most probable cause of the blast were either low quality pipes or bad construction work. (Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; editing by James Jukwey)

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