ENERGY WARSuspicious Leaks in Baltic Sea Nord Stream Pipelines Connecting Russia and Germany

Published 27 September 2022

Both Nord Stream natural gas pipelines from Russia to Germany have developed apparent leaks within hours of one another. The cause is unknown, but some sources have hinted at sabotage.

Danish and Swedish officials on Tuesday said two leaks had been identified on the Nord Stream 1 Russia-Europe gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea.

The news came only hours after a similar development on its twin pipeline, Nord Stream 2. Both conduits have become flash points in the escalating energy war that has sent gas prices rocketing since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

What Do We Know So Far?
Officials said a pressure drop was detected in the Nord Stream 1 undersea gas channel soon after a similar fall was detected in its sister pipeline, Nord Stream 2. 

Both of Nord Stream 1’s two lines are affected, while one of Nord Stream 2’s pipelines showed a drop in pressure.

Marine authorities identified a gas leak southeast of the Danish island of Bornholm as the likely cause of the issue affecting Nord Stream 2. Danish officials warned of a threat to shipping in the area and asked vessels to steer clear.

Swedish authorities on Tuesday said there were two leaks on Nord Stream 1 — one in the Danish maritime economic zone and the other in the Swedish one. The two leaks were reported to be very close to one another.

The German economy ministry said it was investigating the incident.

We currently do not know the reason for the drop in pressure,” it said.

Blasts Registered by Swedish Seismologists
Seismologists from Sweden’s National Seismology Centre (SNSN) told public broadcaster SVT that powerful blasts had been registered in the areas of the gas leaks on Monday.

There is no doubt that these were explosions,” SNSN seismologist Bjorn Lund told SVT.

Denmark’s armed forces meanwhile released footage showing bubbles on the surface of the Baltic Sea above the Nordstream 1 and 2 pipelines and reported that the largest of the leaks had caused surface disturbance of around 1 kilometer (0.62 miles) in diameter. 

What’s the Significance?

Both of the pipelines were built to carry natural gas from Russia to Europe, although the Nord Stream 2 pipeline was never activated. 

German officials have not yet provided any information on the possible cause of the damage. However, Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper cited German security circles saying that sabotage was strongly suspected. “Our imagination no longer allows for a scenario in which this is not a targeted attack,” the newspaper quoted its source as saying.

Swedish police launched a preliminary investigation into possible sabotage a national police spokesperson said.

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said it was “hard to imagine” that the leaks were “accidental.”

Speaking to Danish media while on a visit to Poland, Frederiksen said: “It’s an unusual situation, to have three leaks a distance from each other. That’s why it’s hard to imagine that it’s accidental.”

Ukraine blamed the leaks on Moscow.

The large-scale ‘gas leak’ from Nord Stream 1 is nothing more than a terrorist attack planned by Russia and an act of aggression towards the EU,” Kyiv’s presidential advisor Mikhaylo Podolyak wrote on Twitter.

He accused Russia of seeking to “destabilize the economic situation in Europe and cause pre-winter panic.”

Separately, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was “extremely concerned” by the reports of damage and that no option, including sabotage, can be excluded at the moment.

Obviously, there is a destruction of the pipeline. And what the reason is, there is no option that can be ruled out until the results of the investigation emerge,” Peskov was cited as saying by Interfax state news agency. “This is an absolutely unprecedented situation that needs to be resolved quickly.”

While neither pipeline has been delivering supplies to Europe, both have still been filled with gas. 

Why Is No Gas Flowing from Russia?
Nord Stream 1 was carrying gas to Germany until earlier this month, but Russian energy giant Gazprom cut off the supply, claiming there was a need for urgent maintenance work to repair key components.

German officials have rejected state-owned Gazprom’s explanation of technical problems, saying the stoppage is merely a power play in response to Western sanctions.

Gazprom began to cut supplies through Nord Stream 1 in mid-June, blaming a delay in the delivery of a turbine that had been sent to Canada for repair. 

The newer Nord Stream 2 pipeline was fully complete when German Chancellor Olaf Scholz suspended its certification, two days before Russia invaded Ukraine.

Germany has long been highly dependent on imports of fossil fuels from Russia to meet its energy needs but has been forced to look for new sources  since the war in Ukraine began.

This article is published courtesy of Deutsche Welle (DW).