Nord Stream leak could cause climate disaster

The leak of hundreds of thousands of tons of methane from the Nord Stream pipeline could be the largest greenhouse gas emissions recorded to date.

On September 26, the Swedish Maritime Authority (SMA) discovered two leaks on the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline located in the exclusive economic zones of Denmark and Sweden. SMA also previously announced another leak on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline running parallel to Nord Stream 1.

Kristoffer Bottzauw, head of the Danish Energy Agency, warned that the leak was pushing a huge amount of methane into the Baltic Sea and the atmosphere. According to Bottzauw, the leaks will cause 778 million cubic meters of gas to escape from the pipelines.

Nord Stream 1 is the largest gas pipeline from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea. Nord Stream 2, completed by the end of 2021, is located almost parallel to Nord Stream 1. These pipes are made of steel coated with concrete 12 cm thick, located 70-90 meters below the seabed, according to Mr. Bottzauw.

Gas leaks from the Nord Stream 1 pipeline off the coast of Denmark on September 27.  Photo: AFP.

Gas leaks from the Nord Stream 1 pipeline off the coast of Denmark on September 27. Image: AFP.

Based on figures released by the Danish government, Rob Jackson, a meteorologist from Stanford University in the US, and David Hastings, a marine chemist in Florida, estimate the amount of greenhouse gases released in the leak. equivalent to 500,000 tons of methane.

Meanwhile, the Aliso Canyon disaster, the largest terrestrial methane release in US history, produced about 90,000-100,000 tons of gas.

“Whoever caused this disaster should be prosecuted for war crimes and jailed,” Mr Jackson said.

Andrew Baxter, a former chemical engineer and member of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), thinks the Danish estimate may be too high. Baxter gives a lower methane release figure, but still more than double that of the Aliso Canyon incident. “This is really a climate disaster,” he said.

Methane gas appearing, bubbling on the ocean’s surface is a sign of “a very strong gas leak”, meaning a large amount of gas has escaped from the pipeline, according to Paul Balcombe, a chemical engineering expert from the University Royal College of London.

“The impact on the environment and the climate will be huge, even if a small fraction of this gas is released,” Balcombe said.

Leak location on Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines. Graphics: DW.

Leak location on Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines. Graphics: DW.

Methane is one of the leading causes of climate change. This gas absorbs the sun’s heat 82.5 times more strongly than CO2, although it only lasts about 12 years compared to the centuries of CO2. AFP.

“As long as the methane is bubbling, that area is very dangerous,” Bottzauw said, declining to say when experts could deploy the vehicle to dive into the waters where the leaks occurred to check. Check the pipes.

Peter Schmidt, a seismologist at Uppsala University, said there were signs of explosions under the sea before the leaks were discovered. This statement raised suspicions that the Nord Stream pipeline system was damaged with explosives.

The pipelines have recently become the focus of geopolitical tensions between Russia and the West, with Europe accusing Russia of cutting gas supplies to weaponize energy, and Moscow saying Western sanctions have caused they cannot guarantee the supply.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on September 28 hinted that the US was behind the Nord Stream pipeline leak, while Washington accused Moscow of spreading fake news. The US has also pledged to help European partners investigate the leak and find the cause.

Nord Stream 1 consists of two parallel pipelines, each with a capacity of 27.5 billion m3 per year. Russia completely stopped the flow of gas through Nord Stream 1 from August 31 for maintenance.

Nord Stream 2 completed by the end of 2021, located almost parallel to Nord Stream 1, is designed to transport gas from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea without going through Ukraine or Poland, doubling gas supplies from Russia to Germany. Berlin indefinitely postponed the grant of permits for Nord Stream 2 on February 22, two days before Russia began its special military operation in Ukraine.

Duc Trung (Theo AP, AFP)

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