BERLIN – Two explosions at the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines in the Baltic Sea may have released the largest-ever release of methane gas into the atmosphere, but it was not enough to have a major impact on climate change. , experts say.
Although sudden releases of methane from underwater pipelines are unusual and scientists have little precedent, the consensus is that millions of tons of water from pipelines will not be released with such a large amount of methane spewing into the atmosphere from around the world. A dramatic difference.
“It’s not insignificant, but it’s something like a modest-sized U.S. city,” said Drew Schindel, a professor of earth sciences at Duke University. “There are many sources around the world. Any single event is small. I think this falls 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 that gas reached the atmosphere, it would account for about 0.1 percent of the estimated annual global methane emissions, said scientists at the US Geological Survey’s Gas Hydrates Project.
From an emissions perspective, the breach is “significant to watch,” said project leader Carolyn Ruppel, who made the estimate with colleague Bill Waite. Worst-case calculations by Thomas Lauvaux, a researcher at the Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Sciences in France, put it at around 1 million cars a year – compared to around 250 million cars operating in the EU alone.
The EU has warned of a ‘strong’ response against sabotage following the Nord Stream explosion
Other scientists cautioned against underestimating the power of methane. Paul Balcombe, senior lecturer in chemical engineering and renewable energy at Queen Mary University of London, calls it a “really powerful greenhouse gas” and “even a small leak has an impact on the climate.”
Swedish monitoring stations that measure local atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases have reported a spike since the pipeline burst, with methane concentrations 20 to 25 percent higher than usual, “which is quite remarkable compared to our long-term data series,” said Thomas Holst, researcher. Lund University in Sweden told The Post in an email that that’s not enough to pose a health risk.
Monitoring stations in Finland and Norway reported similar spikes. Ruppel noted that “methane is generally well mixed in the atmosphere, so these local spikes will spread around the globe.”
Despite the size of the spill, the oil spill will not affect marine life, said Jasmine Cooper, a research associate at the Sustainable Gas Institute. said “Environment Impacts on Global Warming.”
Images released by the Swedish Coast Guard on Thursday still show large bubbles of methane on the sea surface that are escaping from four leaks across the pipeline — not three, as officials initially said.
Scientists say both further imaging and access to the site are needed to get a clearer picture of the leak and calculate how much methane may be released into the atmosphere.
“We know it’s leaking badly because we see pictures and videos of gas bubbles on the surface of the water, but we don’t know anything about the leak,” Cooper said. “We don’t know how big they are or where they are in the pipeline, and so it’s hard to figure out flow rates.”
Danish officials said on Wednesday that they expected both pipelines to be empty by Sunday, as more than half of the gas had already been released. Once the gas runs out, he said, scientists and security officials will have better access to the site, which is limited for security reasons.
The release of the gas will also allow forensic experts to examine the site for clues as to what caused the explosion, which security officials across Europe have determined.
NATO on Thursday issued its strongest statement on violations at the Nord Stream pipeline in the Baltic Sea, describing the damage as “the result of deliberate, reckless and irresponsible acts of sabotage”.
A European Union official reiterated Thursday that the pipeline damage was “not a coincidence.”
The Swedish National Seismic Network placed the force of the second large explosion at 100 to 200 kilograms (220 to 440 pounds) equivalent of TNT. The first was small and consequently difficult to measure.
Weapons experts say it is difficult to predict what type of munition may have caused the damage. It is possible that a torpedo was used, but it is more likely that a diver or an autonomous underwater vehicle placed one or more demolition charges at each site. To identify the weapon or weapons used, more evidence — including additional sensor data, as well as physical evidence such as remnants of war — will be needed.
As European leaders agree that sabotage is involved, suspicions are growing on Russia, which has used energy supplies against Europe since its invasion of Ukraine.
Intelligence officials have begun monitoring communications intercepts, sonar signatures and other records that could reveal suspicious activity in the weeks or months before the explosions. Two senior officials with two European security services said Russia is a prime suspect because it has the technological means to launch surface attacks on key infrastructure and has shown its determination to destabilize Europe’s energy markets.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, stressed that these are preliminary, analytical findings and that no evidence has yet emerged to implicate Moscow.
The Kremlin has denied responsibility for the incident, suggesting on Thursday that the incidents should be investigated as “acts of terrorism” and that a coordinated international investigation is needed, as Russia is the majority owner of both pipelines.
Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, has also indicated that the hand of the United States is behind these explosions.
“Washington was the absolute beneficiary of this situation,” she said Thursday. “Mr. Blinken has made no secret of the fact that the main goal was to wean Europe off Russian energy resources, and now you don’t know who can benefit from it. It benefits you!” She addressed the US Secretary of State.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter, said on Wednesday that the United States had nothing to do with the attack on the Nord Stream pipeline and called the idea “baseless”.
Francis reports from London. Greg Miller in Washington, Emily Rauhala in Brussels, Martin Celso Sorensen in Copenhagen, Natalia Abbakumova in Riga, Latvia contributed to this report.