A major explosion at a trunk gas pipeline in Ukraine has left customers in the Poltava region of the country without gas supplies.

Russian gas exports to Europe, however, remain unaffected by the blast, as Gazprom had already cut its export flows across Ukraine from 1 January.

The accident occurred around noon on 9 January at a segment of strategic Urengoy–Pomary–Uzhgorod pipeline.

Authorities identified a leak as a preliminary cause, dismissing suggestions on any external interference.

A subsequent blast put about 30 metres of the pipeline out of service, according to the country’s network operator, Operator GTS Ukrainy.

Nobody was injured in the explosion, but more than 3000 households and industrial customers in the town of Lubny and several settlements in the Poltava region were cut off from any gas supply.

Operator GTS Ukrainy said a temporary re-routing scheme has been arranged via an alternative pumping station, with gas delivery to most customers restored earlier on Monday.

An emergency shutdown of gas flow in the damaged line allowed Operator GTS Ukrainy to extinguish the fire in just 16 minutes.

It added that a team of about 30 employees is on site to replace the damaged segment, however, it provided no indication of when repairs are set to be completed.

Operator GTS Ukrainy said the capacity of other neighbouring lines of the Urengoy–Pomary–Uzhgorod pipeline is sufficient to continue Russian gas exports to Europe without any interruption.

The pipeline system, which was built during the Soviet era, transports gas from major fields in West Siberia across Ukraine to Poland and Germany, and also provides shipping services to local gas producers in the Poltava region.

Earlier this month, Operator GTS Ukrainy acknowledged that Gazprom has reduced daily gas transit flows across the country by about one-third, to 130 million cubic metres per day, as against December, despite robust demand in Europe and the quick withdrawal of gas from European storage facilities.

According to the five-year gas transit agreement between Russia and Ukraine, signed in December 2019, Gazprom has committed to transport 40 billion cubic metres of gas annually between 2021 and 2024, as against 65 Bcm in 2020.

Actual Russian gas shipments across Ukraine to Europe amounted to 55.8 Bcm last year, which is 38% lower than in 2019, Operator GTS Ukrainy said.