Nord Stream leak may be biggest methane leak ever, but not catastrophic

BERLIN – The release of methane gas into the atmosphere by two explosions of the Nord 1 and 2 pipelines in the Baltic Sea may be the largest ever released, but it may not be enough to have a major impact on climate change, experts say.

A close investigation of the explosion that opened both pipes will have to wait for the gas to dissipate, but scientists are making preliminary conclusions about the impact on the environment.

While a sudden influx of methane from an underwater pipeline is unusual and scientists have little precedent to rely on, the consensus is that with so much methane being released into the atmosphere around the globe, hundreds of thousands of tons in pipelines won’t make a dramatic difference.

“It’s not trivial, but it’s a mid-sized U.S. city, something like this,” said Druschindell, a professor of geosciences at Duke University. “There are many sources around the world. Any single event tends to be small. I Think that tends to fall into that category.”

New data released by the Danish Energy Agency on Wednesday allowed scientists to make a preliminary estimate of the amount of methane released. If all of these gases entered the atmosphere, it would be equivalent to about 0.1 percent of estimated global annual methane emissions, according to scientists from the USGS’s Natural Gas Hydrate Program.

Project leader Carolyn Ruppel, along with colleague Bill Waite, estimated the breach was “a significant event to watch” from an emissions standpoint. . Thomas Lauvaux, a researcher at the French Laboratory for Climate and Environmental Sciences, has made worst-case calculations, equating it to an annual production of about 1 million cars – compared to about 250 million cars operating in the EU alone .

EU warns of ‘strong’ response to damage after Nord Stream blast

Other scientists caution against underestimating the power of methane. Paul Balcombe, a senior lecturer in chemical engineering and renewable energy at Queen Mary University of London, called it a “very powerful greenhouse gas” that “even a small leak can have a considerable impact on the climate”.

The Swedish monitoring station, which measures the concentration of greenhouse gases in the local atmosphere, has reported a spike in methane since the burst, 20% to 25% higher than usual, “​​compared to our long-term data series, which is very significant ,” Thomas Holst, a researcher at Lund University in Sweden, told The Washington Post in an email, although insisting it wasn’t enough to pose a health risk.

Monitoring stations in Finland and Norway reported similar peaks. “Methane is usually well mixed in the atmosphere, so these local peaks dissipate globally,” Ruppel noted.

Jasmine Cooper, a research associate at the Sustainable Gas Institute, said despite the size of the spill, it was unlikely to affect marine life like an oil spill. Say. “The environmental impact will be global warming.”

Imagery released by the Swedish Coast Guard on Thursday still showed large bubbles of methane in the sea coming from four leaks in the pipeline — not the three leaks authorities initially said.

Further imaging and access to the site are necessary to get a clearer picture of the leak and calculate the amount of methane that may have been released into the atmosphere, the scientists said.

“We knew it was leaking badly because we saw pictures and videos of gas bubbling on the water, but we didn’t know anything about the leak,” Cooper said. “We don’t know how big they are or where they are in the pipeline, so it’s difficult to calculate the flow rate.”

Danish officials said on Wednesday they expected both pipelines to be emptied by Sunday, having already released more than half of the gas. They said scientists and security officials would have better access to the site once the gas was gone, but it was restricted for safety reasons.

Dispersion of the gas will also allow forensic experts to examine the site for clues that led to the explosion, which has drawn the attention of security officials across Europe.

NATO on Thursday issued its strongest statement yet on the rupture of the Nord Stream pipeline in the Baltic Sea, describing the damage as a “deliberate, reckless and irresponsible act of sabotage”.

An EU official reiterated on Thursday that the damage to the pipeline was “no coincidence”.

The Swedish National Seismic Network considers the magnitude of the larger second blast to be equivalent to 100 to 200 kilograms (220 to 440 pounds) of TNT. The first is narrower and therefore harder to measure.

Weapons experts say it’s hard to guess which ammunition caused the damage. Torpedoes may have been used, but it is more likely that divers or autonomous underwater vehicles placed one or more blasting charges at each location. To identify the weapon or weapons used, more evidence is needed — including additional sensor data, as well as physical evidence such as ammunition residues.

Russia has grown suspicious of Russia, which has used energy supplies as leverage against Europe since its invasion of Ukraine, as European leaders agree that sabotage is involved.

Intelligence officials have begun scrutinizing communications intercepts, sonar signatures and other records that could reveal suspicious activity in the weeks or months before the blast. Two senior officials with two European security services said Russia remained the prime suspect because of its technical means to conduct underground attacks on critical infrastructure and its demonstrated determination to destabilize European energy markets.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, stressed that these are preliminary analytical conclusions and that there is no evidence so far that Moscow is involved.

The Kremlin, which has denied responsibility for the incidents, said on Thursday that they should be investigated as “acts of terrorism” and that a coordinated international investigation is needed because Russia is the main owner of both pipelines.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also suggested that the United States may be behind the bombing.

“The absolute beneficiary of this situation is Washington,” she said Thursday. “Mr. Blinken has made no secret of the fact that the main goal is to cut Europe off from Russian energy, and now you don’t know who will benefit from it. Good for you!” she added, addressing the US secretary of state.

A U.S. official, who also requested anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue, said on Wednesday the U.S. had nothing to do with the Nord Stream pipeline attack, calling the idea “ridiculous.”

Francis reported from London. Greg Miller in Washington, Emily Rauhala in Brussels, Martin Selsoe Sorensen in Copenhagen, and Natalia Abbakumova in Riga, Latvia contributed to this report.

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