Explosion of Nord Stream gas pipeline prompts investigation into ‘sabotage’

BERLIN β€” European leaders said on Tuesday they believed two explosions that disrupted pipelines built to transport Russian gas to Europe were deliberate, with some officials blaming the Kremlin for suggesting the blasts were designed to pose a threat to the continent.

The damage has not had a direct impact on Europe’s energy supply. Russia cut off energy supplies earlier this month after European countries scrambled to build inventories and secure alternative energy sources.

But the incident could mark the final end of the Nord Stream project, a more than 20-year effort to deepen Europe’s reliance on Russian gas — a serious strategic mistake that many officials now say.

Two explosions on Monday caused leaks in all three underwater Nord Stream pipelines linking Russia and Germany, sending massive air bubbles to the surface of the Baltic Sea.

“These are deliberate actions, not accidents,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told reporters on Tuesday. “The situation is already serious.”

The explosions, which occurred off the coast of Denmark’s Bornholm island, were not “attacks on Denmark” because they occurred in international waters, Frederiksen said. But Danish military leaders sent one of their top frigates, the Absalon, on Tuesday to guard the island along with other patrol ships. Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod is convening other NATO counterparts to discuss the situation and, like others, spoke candidly about internal security issues on the condition of anonymity, according to a senior European diplomat familiar with the dialogue. .

“We don’t yet know the details of what happened, but we can clearly see that this was an act of sabotage,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters on Tuesday.

Morawiecki said the bill “could mark the next stage in the escalation of the situation in Ukraine.” He was speaking at the inauguration of a new Baltic Pipeline undersea pipeline that gives Poland and its neighbours access to Norwegian gas. The project aims to reduce reliance on gas that once came from Russia.

Russia has denied responsibility for the damage. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that the Russian government was “very concerned”.

Gazprom says it won’t reopen Nord Stream gas pipeline to Europe as planned

“The damage to three offshore pipelines of the Nord Stream system occurring simultaneously in one day is unprecedented,” operating company Nord Stream AG said in a statement. It said it was working with local authorities to assess the extent of the damage and why.

Five European officials with direct knowledge of the security discussions said Russia was widely believed to be behind the incident. Some of them say that only Russia has power, diving equipment and capabilities, although they warn that they have no direct evidence of Russian involvement.

“No one on the European side of the ocean thinks it’s just Russian sabotage,” said a senior European environment official, speaking on condition of anonymity, discussing internal views on the leak.

One official said it could be a message to NATO: “We’re getting close.” Another said it could be a threat to other non-Russian energy infrastructure because so many pipelines crisscross the Baltic, including The pipeline inaugurated on Tuesday. A third pointed to critical internet data cables lying under the sea, and there have long been concerns that Russia has a program for a submersible that could cut the cables, causing communications chaos around the world.

Swedish police are investigating “sabotage”, said Karl Gigeland, spokesman for the Swedish prosecutor’s office. Germany and Denmark are also investigating.

Although gas is not being transported to Europe by pipeline, there appears to be a large amount of the gas still in the pipeline, raising concerns about the potential environmental harm of methane – a major component of natural gas and a major contributor to climate change. reach the atmosphere.

Dan Jorgensen, Denmark’s climate minister, told reporters it could take at least a week to stop the flow of natural gas to the surface of the Baltic Sea.

Russia allows methane leak to endanger the planet

Two of the damaged pipelines are part of Nord Stream 1, formerly the main transmission line for Russian gas to Germany, Poland and other European countries. Earlier this year, Russia reduced and stopped traffic through Nord Stream 1. The Kremlin blamed technical problems. European leaders, including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, have accused the Kremlin of using fossil fuels to “blackmail” countries that support Ukraine.

The third leak is part of the newer Nord Stream 2, which was frozen by Germany following the Russian invasion.

Sweden’s National Seismological Network (SNSN) recorded two separate explosions near Bornholm on Monday.Automated monitoring detected the first explosion at 2:03 am, equivalent to a magnitude 1.8 earthquake, and a second, larger explosion at 7:04 pm, equivalent to a magnitude 2.3 quake

“The location of the second explosion was five or six kilometers from where the Swedish Maritime Administration placed the gas leak,” said Bjorn Lund, director of the Swedish Seismic Network. He noted that the complexity of geographic regions means that there is some bias in any estimated distance.

The SNSN regularly records explosions in the area when the Swedish Navy conducts bomb drills, so there is a lot of data on the surrounding area, Lund said.

“That [comparative data] Let’s be more certain that these were explosions and not earthquakes or landslides or something more natural,” he said. “What we’re seeing now is very similar to what we’ve recorded for these naval explosions. “

The German Center for Geosciences confirmed similar findings to The Washington Post, saying it was certain that the seismic disturbances were not caused by naturally occurring earthquakes.

Images provided to The Post by Earth-imaging company Planet Labs show methane bubbles as early as 9 a.m. Monday after the first recorded explosion.

An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the new leaks could be blamed on Russia.

Adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said: “The ‘gas leak’ from NS-1 is nothing more than a Russian-planned terrorist attack and an act of aggression against the EU.” tweet.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Tuesday that the United States is aware of unconfirmed reports that the leaks may have been the result of “an attack or some kind of sabotage.”

“If confirmed, it’s clearly not in anyone’s interest,” he told reporters at the State Department. “It is vital that we work day in and day out on a short- and long-term basis to address energy security in Europe and around the world,” he said.

U.S. efforts include adding LNG to Europe, increasing U.S. oil production and utilizing the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, Blinken said. Whatever the cause, the leak would not have a major impact on Europe’s “energy resilience”, he insisted.

A spokesman for the European Commission said that while gas supplies were not threatened, officials were concerned about potential environmental damage.

“This has not yet impacted security of supply,” spokesman Tim McPhee said. β€œIn any case, the delivery of Nord Stream 1 is zero, and Nord Stream 2 has not yet been authorized to operate. We are also analysing the potential impact of these methane leaks, a gas that of course has a considerable impact on climate change, and we are working with Member States are in touch on their potential impact on maritime navigation.”

Experts say the potential environmental impact is difficult to assess because the actual amount of methane released into the atmosphere depends on a wide range of variables.Methane exceeds In the first 20 years after being released into the atmosphere, it is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide. But water can absorb at least some of the gas when it is released underwater.

“We don’t know the amount of methane that’s being expelled, we don’t know how long it’s going to last, we don’t know the size of the bubbles that are forming when it’s expelled,” said Caroline, chief scientist for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Gas Hydrate Program. To understand how much methane might be released, says Carolyn Ruppel.

Scientists say the relatively shallow depth of the pipeline – about 75 yards below the water’s surface – is worrisome.

“In shallow conditions like this, a lot of methane is more likely to enter the atmosphere,” Rupel said.

The Nord Stream operator did not disclose how much gas was in the pipeline when the explosion occurred.

Jean-Francois Gauthier, vice president of measurement at emissions monitoring group GHGSat, said that despite the limited information, “conservative estimates … at the time these leaks could add up to more than 500 metric tons per hour. decline over time.

That would be “an order of magnitude higher” than the largest U.S. spill recorded in 2015 to 2016 in California’s Aliso Canyon, which peaked at about 50 tons per hour, he said.

Birnbaum reported from Washington and Ilyushna from Riga, Latvia. Kate Brady in Berlin, Beatriz Rios in Brussels and John Hudson in Washington contributed to this report.

Ukraine war: what you need to know

Newest: Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “partial mobilization” of the military in his Sept. 9 national address. On the 21st, the move was characterized as an attempt to defend Russia’s sovereignty against the West, which was trying to use Ukraine as a tool to “divide and destroy Russia.” Follow us here for live updates.

Fight: A successful Ukrainian counteroffensive in recent days has forced Russia into a massive retreat in the northeastern region of Kharkiv as troops fled the cities and villages they had occupied since the early days of the war and abandoned vast quantities of military equipment.

Merger referendum: The staged referendum, which is illegal under international law, will begin on September 1. According to the Russian news agency, from the 23rd to the 27th local time, the separate regions of Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. The Moscow-appointed government will start another staged referendum in Kherson on Friday.

photo: Photographers for The Washington Post have been on the ground since the war began β€” some of their most influential work.

How you can help: Here’s how Americans can help support the people of Ukraine, and people around the world have been giving.

Read our Russia-Ukraine Crisis. are you telegram? Subscribe to our channel For updates and exclusive videos.

Source link