Pipeline leak exposes Europe’s weakness

Three consecutive leaks at two Nord Stream gas pipelines from Russia to Germany show how vulnerable Europe’s energy infrastructure is.

Nord Stream AG, the operator of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, on September 26 discovered a sudden pressure drop, possibly due to a leak, on the gas pipeline from Russia to Germany passing through the sea. Baltic. The Danish Energy Agency later said that one of the two Nord Stream 2 pipelines in Danish waters had leaked.

A few hours later, Nord Stream AG announced that it continued to record pressure drops on Nord Stream 1, another gas pipeline from Russia to Germany running parallel to Nord Stream 2. The Swedish Maritime Authority said. discovered two leak locations on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline in Swedish and Danish waters.

Air bubbles leaking from the Nord Stream 2 pipeline rise to the surface of the Baltic Sea, near the Danish island of Bornholm, on September 27.  Photo: Danish Ministry of Defense.

Air bubbles leaking from the Nord Stream 2 pipeline rise to the surface of the Baltic Sea, near the Danish island of Bornholm, on September 27. Image: Danish Ministry of Defense.

Images taken by the Danish military show bubbles of air with a diameter of 200-1,000 m rising to the surface from three leaks in the Nord Stream system located in the exclusive economic zones of this country and Sweden.

The Swedish National Seismic Network recorded two “massive energy releases” near the leak on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline off the Danish island of Bornholm. Peter Schmidt, a seismologist at Uppsala University, thinks this is the result of explosions under the sea.

This information sparked speculation that two gas pipelines from Russia to Europe were “attacked” with explosives and this could be a sabotage plot.

The head of the Danish Energy Agency, Kristoffer Bottzauw, said the leaks were very large and it could take a week for gas to stop coming out of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Simone Tagliapietra, senior fellow at the Bruegel think tank in Brussels, Belgium, said the Nord Stream attack could be a blow to Europe’s already fragile energy security system.

The series of leaks will “add strain to the EU gas market, even if the flow through Nord Stream has been cut”, he said. “This is also a signal that Russia will be forever divided in energy from Western Europe and Germany.”

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck told German business leaders that the leaks were due to targeted attacks and Berlin knew for sure “they were not caused by incidents or natural phenomena”. cause”.

The prime ministers of Sweden and Denmark said the leak was clearly intentional, with information so far leaning towards the theory that the pipes were sabotaged. The Polish Prime Minister also made a similar comment, but did not provide specific evidence.

“We’re talking about three leaks that aren’t too far apart. It’s hard to believe it’s just a coincidence,” said Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.

Workers install the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in 2018. Photo: DPA.

Workers install Nord Stream 2 pipeline in 2018. Photo: DPA.

Russia also says that the possibility of pipelines being sabotaged is possible and that the leaks are undermining Europe’s energy security.

The incident occurred when a new gas pipeline between Norway and Poland was inaugurated on September 27. A sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline during this time will have the effect of sending a message of deterrence, according to Tagliapietra.

“In any case, this should be a stark reminder of how risky Europe’s gas infrastructure is,” the expert commented.

A senior Ukrainian official accused Russia of carrying out attacks on the Nord Stream pipeline system to incite instability in Europe, but provided no evidence.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote on Twitter on the evening of September 27 that she had spoken with the Danish Prime Minister about the “act of sabotage” against the Nord Stream pipelines, and called for an investigation. investigate this issue.

“Any intentional act aimed at disrupting Europe’s working energy infrastructure is unacceptable and will result in the strongest possible response,” she said.

Part of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline in Lubmin, Germany on August 30.  Photo: Reuters.

Part of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline in Lubmin, Germany on August 30. Image: Reuters.

However, analysts say the investigation process will take a long time because it has to send submarines to explore the seabed where the gas pipelines are located.

Both leaked pipelines currently do not pump gas to Europe, because Nord Stream 2 has not yet come into operation, and Nord Stream 1 has been closed by Russia since August due to technical problems at the compressor station. . However, the series of incidents will destroy any remaining hope that Europe can receive Russian gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline before winter, observers assess.

Julian Pawlak, an expert at the German Institute for Strategic and Defense Studies, said the Nord Stream leak was convincing evidence of how critical Europe’s infrastructure is at risk. from outside attacks.

It also serves as a reminder to Europe that its energy infrastructure is vulnerable, even as it moves away from its dependence on Russian gas and oil.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in June warned several European countries, including Germany, that the Nord Stream pipeline could be attacked by sabotage, according to several senior US officials. understand the problem. They declined to say whether the warning identified Russia as a potential attacker, and US officials have not been able to conclude who is responsible for the current leaks.

“The clearest message here is that what happens to a closed pipeline can also happen to active pipelines or undersea cables or any other infrastructure,” said the expert. Pawlak said.

Vu Hoang (Theo WSJ, Al Jazeera, Reuters)

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