Press play to listen to this article

The apparent sabotage of both Nord Stream gas pipelines could be one of the worst industrial methane accidents in history, scientists said Wednesday, but it’s not a major climate disaster.

Methane – a greenhouse gas up to 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide – is escaping into the atmosphere from three boiling patches on the surface of the Baltic Sea, the largest of which, according to the Danish military, was a kilometer across.

On Tuesday evening, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen convicted “Sabotage” and “deliberate disruption of active European energy infrastructure”.

Here are eight key questions about the impact of leaks.

1. How much methane was in the pipelines?

No government agency in Europe has been able to say with certainty how much gas is in the pipes.

“I cannot say unequivocally because the pipelines are owned by Nord Stream AG and the gas comes from Gazprom,” said a spokesman for the German Ministry of Climate and Economy.

Two Nord Stream 1 pipelines were in operation, although Moscow stopped delivering gas a month ago and both were hit. “You can assume this is a large amount” of gas in these pipelines, said a German official. Only one of the Nord Stream 2 lines was hit. It wasn’t working, but last year it was filled with 177 million cubic meters of gas.

Estimates of the total amount of gas in leaky pipelines range from 150 million cubic meters. up to 500 million cubic meters

2. How much is spent?

Kristoffer Böttzauw, director of the Danish Energy Agency, He said journalists Wednesday said the spills corresponded to about 14 million tons of CO2, about 32 percent of the Danish annual emissions.

German Federal Environment Agency estimated the spills will emit around 7.5 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent – around 1 percent of Germany’s annual emissions. The agency also noted that there are no “sealing mechanisms” along the pipelines, “so most likely all the contents of the pipes will escape.”

As at least one of the spills is in Danish waters, Denmark will need to add these emissions to its climate balance, the agency said.

However, it is unclear whether all of the gas in the lines will actually be released into the atmosphere. Methane is also consumed by ocean bacteria as it flows through the water column.

3. How does this relate to previous leaks?

The largest spill ever recorded in the US was the Aliso Canyon spill in 2015, which involved about 90,000 tons of methane over a period of months. With higher estimates of what could be released in the Baltic more than twice as much, this week’s catastrophe could be “unprecedented,” said David McCabe, senior scientist for the Clean Air Task Force.

Jeffrey Kargel, a senior scientist at the Planetary Research Institute in Tucson, Arizona, said the leak was “really disturbing.” It’s a real travesty, an environmental crime if it was deliberate.

4. Will it have a significant impact on global temperatures?

“The amount of gas lost from the pipeline is obviously large,” said Kargel. But “this is not a climate catastrophe as you might think.”

Annual global emissions of carbon dioxide are around 32 billion tonnes, which is a small fraction of the pollution causing climate change. It even pales in comparison to the accumulation of thousands of industrial and agricultural sources of methane heating the planet.

“This is a tiny bubble in the ocean compared to the huge amounts of so-called escaped methane that are emitted worldwide every day due to things like fracking, coal mining and oil extraction,” said Dave Reay, Edinburgh executive director. Climate Change Institute.

Lauri Myllyvirta, chief analyst at the Center for Energy and Clean Air Research, said it was roughly comparable to the amount of methane leaking from Russia’s oil and gas infrastructure in a given working week.

Reported spill near the Nord Stream 2 pipeline off the Danish island of Bornholm | Danish Defense Command

5. Does it have an impact on the local environment?

While the gas continues to leak, the immediate vicinity is an extremely dangerous place. Air containing more than 5 percent methane can be flammable, Rehder said, so the risk of an explosion is real. Methane is not a toxic gas, but high concentrations can reduce the amount of oxygen available.

Shipping has been limited to a radius of 5 nautical miles around the spills. This is because the methane in the water can affect buoyancy and tear a ship’s hull apart.

Rehder said marine animals near the escaping gas could be caught and killed – especially poor swimmers like jellyfish. However, no long-term effects on the local environment are expected.

“This is an unprecedented affair,” he said. “But from our understanding now, it seems to me that the local impact on the marine life in this area is rather small.”

6. What can be done?

Some I suggested that the remainder of the gas should be pumped out, but a spokesman for the German economy and climate ministry said Wednesday it was not possible.

The spokesman added that when the pipeline is emptied, it will “fill with water”. “Nobody can go underwater at the moment – the danger is too great because of the methane leakage.”

Any repair would be the responsibility of the owner of the Nord Stream AG pipeline, the Germans said.

7. Should they set it on fire?

Not only would it look impressive, but setting the gas on fire would greatly reduce the global warming impact of the leak. Methane is composed of carbon and hydrogen, and when burned, it produces carbon dioxide, which causes 30 to 80 times less warming of the planet per ton than methane. Firing up is known to be a common method of reducing the effect of methane volatilization.

From a purely climatic point of view, it makes sense to set fire to fired methane. “Yes, definitely – it will help,” said Piers Forster, director of the Priestley International Climate Center at the University of Leeds.

But there would be safety issues and potential environmental problems including air pollution from combustion. “With the mainland nearby – the inhabited and touristic island of Bornholm in particular – you wouldn’t be venturing into that,” said Rehder.

No government has yet indicated that this is under consideration.

8. How long will it take and what’s next?

“We expect gas to flow from the pipes by the end of the week. Then, first of all, from the Danish side, we will try to get out and investigate the cause and approach the pipes to be able to properly investigate them. We can do this when the gas leak stops, ”said Böttzauw, director of the Danish Energy Agency local media.

Red gradient pro

This article is part of POLITICO Pro


A comprehensive solution for politicians that combines the depth of POLITICO journalism with the power of technology

Pro scoops white

Exclusive, groundbreaking measures and results


Customized policy analysis platform


High-level public affairs network


pl_facebook_pixel_args = [];
pl_facebook_pixel_args.userAgent = navigator.userAgent;
pl_facebook_pixel_args.language = navigator.language;

if ( document.referrer.indexOf( document.domain ) < 0 ) {
pl_facebook_pixel_args.referrer = document.referrer;

s.parentNode.insertBefore(t,s)}(window, document,'script',

fbq( 'consent', 'revoke' );
fbq( 'init', "394368290733607" );
fbq( 'track', 'PageView', pl_facebook_pixel_args );

if ( typeof window.__tcfapi !== 'undefined' ) {
window.__tcfapi( 'addEventListener', 2, function( tcData, listenerSuccess ) {
if ( listenerSuccess ) {
if ( tcData.eventStatus === 'useractioncomplete' || tcData.eventStatus === 'tcloaded' ) {

__tcfapi( 'getCustomVendorConsents', 2, function( vendorConsents, success ) {
if ( ! vendorConsents.hasOwnProperty( 'consentedPurposes' ) ) {

const consents = vendorConsents.consentedPurposes.filter(
function( vendorConsents ) {
return 'Create a personalised ads profile' ===;

if ( consents.length === 1 ) {
fbq( 'consent', 'grant' );
} );

#environmental #impact #unprecedented #Nord #Stream #spills #POLITICO

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *