Nord stream and hazardous methane release
24th Feb, 2023
The leaking of the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea is the biggest single event that led to the massive release of climate-damaging methane. But the incident is a “drop in the ocean compared to the amount of methane released globally,” found the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
- Methane is a rapidly accelerating part of the climate problem.
- It is the primary component of natural gas, and it warms the planet more than 80 times as quickly as a comparable volume of atmospheric CO2 over a comparable amount of time.
- Sources of Methane:
- Biological Sources
- Paddy rice cultivation
- Emissions from Fuel and Industries
Methane stays in the atmosphere for only ten years, unlike CO2, which persists for hundreds or thousands of years.
What is Nord stream project?
- Owned by the Russian energy giant, Gazprom, Nord Stream Pipeline is the longest subsea pipeline.
- It is an export gas pipeline that runs under the Baltic Sea carrying gas from Russia to Europe.
- The gas for Nord Steam comes mainly from the Bovanenkovo oil and gas condensate deposit in Western Siberia.
- Nord Stream consists of two pipelines, which have two lines each.
- Nord Stream 1 that runs from Vyborg in Russia to Lubmin in Germany was completed in 2011.
- Nord Stream 2 that runs from Ust-Luga in Russia to Lubmin in Germany was completed in 2021.
- Both the pipelines together can transport a combined total of 110 billion cubic metres of gas a year to Europe for at least 50 years.
- The Nord Stream crosses the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of several countries including Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany, and the territorial waters of Russia, Denmark, and Germany.
- While both pipelines are not currently running commercially, they had millions of cubic metres of gas stored in them.
The leak event:
- Two leaks were detected on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, both in an area northeast of the Danish island of Bornholm.
- Sweden had reported two separate underwater explosions, very close to where the leaks occurred.
- Possible causes of the leak- The investigations have not yet revealed the cause behind the leaks.
- Possible causes range from technical malfunctions to a lack of maintenance, to even possibly sabotage (deliberate damage or destruction of equipment or property which belongs to the enemy).
- The European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) called the leaks acts of sabotage.
- Russia, which controls the pipeline, has not ruled out sabotage either.
- Ukraine said the leaks were likely the result of a terrorist attack carried out by Russia.
- Various European countries, such as Sweden and Denmark, have launched separate investigations into the matter.
- Economic impact- European gas prices immediately spiked after the reports of the leaks emerged.
- As a result of the leak, all the stored gas is escaping.
- The pipelines are unlikely to provide any gas to Europe through the forthcoming winter months.
- Depending on the intensity of the damage caused by these ruptures, permanent closure of the Nord Stream lines was also a possibility.
- Environmental impact- Methane is a large component of natural gas and is also a potent greenhouse gas.
- It is the second-largest contributor to climate change after CO2.
- Other impacts- Vessels could lose buoyancy if they enter the area, and there might be a risk of leaked gas igniting over the water and in the air.