‘Unprecedented’ damage to Nord Stream pipeline in Baltic Sea raises suspicion as to cause
A series of unusual leaks on two gas pipelines running from Russia under the Baltic Sea to Germany raised concerns of possible sabotage on Tuesday, overshadowing the inauguration of a long-awaited pipeline in Poland that will carry Norwegian gas to the Europe with the aim of strengthening energy independence. From Moscow.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said she ‘cannot rule out’ sabotage after three leaks were detected in the past day on Nord Stream 1 and 2. The pipelines are not currently delivering gas to the Europe as an energy stalemate over Russia’s war in Ukraine interrupted the flows never allowed them to begin. However, the gas still fills the pipes.
No official presented evidence of the cause of the problems, but in central Europe where distrust of Russia is high, there were fears that Moscow had sabotaged its own infrastructure in a gesture of spite or to signal that all pipelines are vulnerable to attacks. The leaks emerged off the coasts of Denmark and Sweden, raising the stakes over whether energy infrastructure in European waters was being targeted and driving up natural gas prices.
Nord Stream AG said it was impossible to estimate when the operating capacity of the gas grid system would be restored.
« We’re talking about three leaks with some distance between them, and that’s why it’s hard to imagine it being a coincidence, » Frederiksen said.
Frederiksen was with Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, opening a valve on a yellow pipe belonging to the Baltic Pipe, a new system to deliver Norwegian gas through Denmark and the Baltic Sea to Poland from of the next week.
Each line of the pipeline consists of approximately 100,000 steel tubes coated with 24-tonne concrete weights laid on the seabed of the Baltic Sea. The pipes have a constant inside diameter of 1,153 meters, according to Nord Stream.
Sections of the pipelines lie at a depth of approximately 80 to 110 meters. Natural gas is methane, which partially dissolves in water and is non-toxic. The deeper the gas is discharged into the sea, the higher the proportion that dissolves in water.
« The destruction that occurred on the same day simultaneously to three offshore gas pipeline chains of the Nord Stream system is unprecedented, » the Nord Stream consortium said.
A Polish government official said he would not rule out the possibility of Russian « provocations ».
« I cannot rule out any scenario. We are in a situation of high international tension, » said Marcin Przydacz, Deputy Foreign Minister. « Unfortunately, our neighbor to the east pursues an aggressive policy all the time. »
‘Very alarming’: Russian government
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the leaks « very alarming ».
« This is an unprecedented situation that requires urgent investigation. We are extremely concerned by this news, » he said in a conference call with reporters.
When asked if the accident could have been caused by an act of sabotage, Peskov replied that « no version could be ruled out ».
Danish authorities said on Monday that a leak had been detected in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was never used. They then announced a major pressure drop on the parallel Nord Stream 1, which was until recently a key source of gas for Germany.
The Swedish Maritime Administration announced on Tuesday that two leaks had been discovered on the Nord Stream 1, which partly flows in Swedish waters.
The pipeline leaks were detected northeast and southeast of the Danish island of Bornholm.
The Danish Maritime Authority has issued a shipping warning and established a no go zone to ensure ships do not approach the leaks. Ships can lose buoyancy if they navigate the area, and there may also be a risk of ignition above water and in the air, Danish authorities said.
Energy concerns as winter approaches
Since the pipelines are not actively sending gas to Europe, the leaks posed no threat to energy supplies and experts said the environmental impact would be limited.
While the continent needs gas to heat homes, generate electricity and run factories, the energy crisis caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine threatens rationing, business closures and a possible recession this winter.
Several European countries have decided to cap prices for businesses and consumers, while sourcing alternative energy sources.
Ottawa was drawn into the fray this summer when Nord Stream turbines had to be serviced at Siemens Canada in Montreal. Ukraine has criticized the Liberal government for acceding to German demands to exempt the company from sanctions applied in all sectors for doing business with Russia since the invasion of Ukraine in February.