Leaks from the Nord Stream Pipeline Begin to Have the First Worrying Effects on the Environment

Environment - October 18, 2022

A Large Cloud of Methane Has Appeared Over the Skies of Norway and
Sweden, and Environmental Damage Predictions Frighten Experts

After the methane gas leaks of the past weeks, from the holes of the 2 Nord Stream pipelines in the
Baltic Sea, a huge cloud of gas is flying over Northern Europe, worrying the population who seems to be
already experiencing the first hardships and the governments of the nations hitherto touched by danger.
The leaks in the ducts in question, as is now known, were preceded by very strong explosions recorded
by seismologists 2 weeks ago and the hypothesis of sabotage now seems to be the only viable one, also
based on international investigations with related exchanges of accusations between Russia and the
West.
The pipelines have suffered damage at a depth of 80 meters in sea areas exclusively used by Sweden
and Denmark, thus releasing more than 80,000 tons of methane which, after boiling the water, has risen
into the atmosphere and, pushed by the winds, travelled up to southern Europe, including Italy, without,
however, the experts assure, causing pollution or serious health problems but certainly, much concern.
The methane leak resulting from the sabotage of the Nord Stream, is the largest one ever made by man
act in the world and, the gas clouds that hover over Europe, have also been detected by satellites in
space, proving how relevant the event must be considered. Methane is a greenhouse gas with effects 80
times stronger than those caused by carbon dioxide and that is why monitoring remains constant by
each specialized body.
It would be enough to think of the commitment of every environmental association in recent years to
raise public awareness on the importance of reducing methane gas emissions into the atmosphere so as
to reduce global warming, to understand the importance of what happened. A gas leak like the one from
Nord Stream is already releasing enough gas to ruin some of the reduction activities perpetrated in
recent months by companies sensitive to environmental issues. Quantifying the methane leaking from
the leaks of the Baltic Sea gas pipelines is a very complex operation because, while the gas that has now
arrived in the earth’s atmosphere can be evaluated by specialized satellites, the quantity of that present
in the water is practically impossible to estimate due to the light reflected on the surface. The method
used so far, but still not precise enough, to define the amount of methane gas already dispersed in the
environment, consists in directly viewing the flow in the pipelines with an accurate control of the
relative pressure and the size of the gash caused by the detonations.
Andrew Baxter, director of the Environment Defense Fund in New York, estimated that approximately
115,000 tons of methane have already flowed out of the Nord Stream, equivalent to the polluting
emissions of about 2.5 million gasoline cars in 2 years. However, there are even more pessimistic
estimates that speak of damage comparable to those caused by 14 million tons of carbon dioxide which
would represent about 32% of all annual emissions of Denmark.
Other experts, on the other hand, highlight how, in reality, this loss, however significant and deserving
of due interest, represents only a small part of the gas losses that are caused daily by oil and gas

infrastructures, especially in Russia beyond than in the rest of Europe in a working week. These gas
leaks, which have grown alarmingly in recent years all over the world, are caused by breakdowns, poor
maintenance of obsolete plants and the practice of venting, which consists in the controlled emission,
for production purposes, by companies.
The phenomenon of gas leaks harmful to the environment must be kept under control also in Italy and,
among the critical issues documented by the Clean Air Task Force (an independent organization of
Boston) is mentioned the one of April 2021 from the LNG terminal in Panigaglia and at the underground
deposit of Minerbio, considered the largest Italian gas deposit. In these plants, "significant
concentrations of methane" generated by the venting practice have been recorded and the situation
seems to have already been reported to the competent authorities to prevent such practices from
causing damages that are difficult to contain even for the communities present in the area.
On the investigation front, in a joint letter, the Swedish and Danish authorities have already provided all
the information useful to the UN Security Council to try to understand the dynamics of the sabotage and
reach a conclusion capable of defining responsibility. According to experts working on the clues
collected, the detonations recorded were caused by several hundred kilos of TNT explosives, carefully
placed, in particularly sensitive areas of the pipeline.
The accusations bounce from one faction to another and, while the Russian secret services say they are
ready to provide striking evidence on the involvement of the Anglo-Saxon secret services, the US
secretary of state Antony Blinken, speaks of "scandalous disinformation" and confirms the commitment
of the forces Westerners in solving the mystery as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, Putin, already
questioned about it, takes advantage of every public outing to reassure Russian public opinion in
relation to the Kremlin’s conduct on the issue and says he is sure of the involvement of the West.
Meanwhile, the 2 main leaks recorded, from the Nord Stream gas pipeline, do not seem to stop and thus
prevent the advancement of in-depth investigations on site. The Swedish coast guard has noted a slight
decrease in the flow out of only one of the leaks present while, the other, continues to lose methane gas
without stopping and with a constantly high flow. When the losses will be under control, perhaps as
early as next week, Russia and local authorities will try to deepen the collaborative investigation, as
assured by both sides, to finally define all modalities and responsibilities.
After the embargo of Russian energy resources to Europe, the Nordic countries have become the main
suppliers for the whole old continent and, therefore, concerns are growing about further sabotage of
their supply lines. All the countries interested in the receipt of gas and oil from the territories of
Northern Europe, said they were ready to safeguard the security of the infrastructures concerned by any
means, to prevent the repetition of energy "attacks" such as that of Nord Stream
Meanwhile, Russia, through the head of energy Alexander Novak, says it is ready to supply more gas to
Europe through the remaining intact line of the Baltic Sea gas pipeline hit by sabotage. The
announcement was made live on television, at the end of the OPEC+ meeting in Vienna and it was
specified, however, that the supply of gas in question can only be restored if Europe eliminates the
sanctions already applied, which are so much damaging the economy of Russia as well as the European
energy resources. The Kremlin authorities have long used the blackmail of gas supplies to Europe in
exchange for a new policy on the restrictions which, however, seem to be about to become increasingly
severe.

When the Russian and Western authorities have defined once and for all the responsibilities related to
the sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea, it will finally be possible to face a path of
restoration of the supply of methane gas to Europe that now seems be crucial for the fate of the
ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine and for the well-being of Europeans during the upcoming
winter period. The investigations will have to be carried out in a transparent manner and in
collaboration between the parties and it is absolutely not taken for granted that the operations will
proceed smoothly, given the general instability of relations between Moscow and the West.