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Sabotage Suspected in Nord Stream 1 and 2 Leaks

The leaks in Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines have intensified the already pressured European energy markets.

Johanna Englundh 27 September, 2022 | 1:05PM
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Nord Stream

Earlier this week, the offshore natural gas pipelines Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 (both located in the Baltic Sea) reported several leaks. For this to be an accident is seen as unlikely, intensifying the already pressured situation in Europe's energy markets.

The energy crisis continues to have a firm grip on Europe,  which questions  Russia's reliability as a natural gas supplier to the continent. At the end of August, there was concern that the shutdown of Nord Stream 1, as a result of the annual maintenance work, would become permanent. Since then,  European countries have tried to find solutions to avoid a situation where there is a complete stop of Russian natural gas supplies.

But now, a new concern has appeared.

Did Someone Sabotage Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2?

On Monday afternoon, after a sudden drop in pressure in the pipeline, a leak was discovered on the Nord Stream 2. The pipeline is drawn from Russia to the northern coast of Germany. Leakage has also been noted on the older Nord Stream 1.

This means that there are holes in the lines and gas is seeping into the Baltic Sea, stated a spokesperson for Nord Stream. The German government views the incident with suspicion and speculates that someone has sabotaged the pipes in a targeted attack by submarine or attack divers, according to the newspaper Tagesspiegel.

"We cannot imagine a scenario that does not involve a targeted attack. Everything points against it being a coincidence," a source familiar with the work of the federal authorities told the newspaper.

Niklas Rossbach, security policy analyst at Swedish FOI, told evening newspaper Expressen that so far, he can only speculate about what happened, but that he finds it mysterious with so many leaks in such a short period. Possible causes range from technical errors to lack of maintenance, as well as sabotage.

"Germany has gone the furthest to say that it's intentional rather than accidental. It is hard to know how official these statements are, but Germany does not tend to blow up suspicions or have far-fetched theories without having something to rely on. The Germans are a little more restrained about the security policy situation, generally more cautious than, for example, the British", he reasons.

Neither Nord Stream nor the German authorities have issued any official comment about the cause of the leaks, other than that it is being investigated.

Explosions Recorded Near the Leaks

Measuring stations in both Sweden and Denmark registered strong underwater explosions in the same area as the gas leaks. The first explosion was registered shortly after 2am on Monday night and the second took place shortly after 7pm on Monday evening.

"There is no doubt that these are explosions," Björn Lund, lecturer in seismology at the Swedish National Seismic Network told SVT.

The Baltic Sea is Bubbling

The Danish defence published the first pictures of the gas bubbles outside Bornholm at one of Nord Stream's gas leaks on Tuesday afternoon, illustrating a bubbling sea (pictured below). The largest leak has caused surface disturbance of over 1 kilometre in diameter, while the smallest forms a circle of just over 200 meters.

Bubbling Baltic Sea

Gas Expected to Leak for Days

It is unclear exactly how much, but extensive amounts of gas are believed to have escaped. Nord Stream 2 alone, which has never been put into use, is estimated to contain 300 million cubic meters of stagnant gas. Gas leaking from the Nord Stream 2 pipeline will continue for several days and perhaps even a week, the Danish energy authority says.

As a result, "no-go zones" have been established as ships may lose buoyancy if they enter the area, and there may be a risk of leaked gas igniting over the water and in the air. But there is no risk associated with the leak outside the exclusion zone.

The leak would only affect the environment in the area where the gas plume in the water column is located and the escaping greenhouse gas methane would have a harmful climate impact.

Gas Price Reactions Only Psychological

Dutch and British gas prices rose on Tuesday morning as news that the Nord Stream gas pipeline had suffered damage, raising concerns over the security of the bloc’s energy infrastructure, and making a swift resumption in flows through the pipeline even less likely.

The price increase is likely a psychological effect more than anything, according to Christian Kopfer, commodity analyst at Handelsbanken.

“There is a lot of uncertainty about what has happened and why, and therefore people are worried about the rest of the gas supply to Europe”, Kopfer said to TT.

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About Author

Johanna Englundh  is an editor for Morningstar in Sweden.

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