Damaged Nord Stream pipelines: how much climate-damaging methane has escaped?

Leaks in Nord Stream Pipelines
Researcher: methane quantity lower than feared

How much climate-damaging methane has leaked into the atmosphere from the damaged Nord Stream pipelines? Estimates run into the hundreds of thousands of tons. French researchers refer to data from monitoring stations and now speak of a much smaller amount.

According to French researchers, the leaks in the Nord Stream gas pipelines released less climate-damaging methane into the atmosphere than feared. Data from monitoring stations across Europe have led to the conclusion that 70,000 tons of methane have been released, according to scientists from the French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energy Commission (CEA). Other estimates would have been multiples of this amount, up to 300,000 tons.

The estimated amount released is equivalent to 2 percent of France’s CO2 emissions, or Paris’s emissions for an entire year, Philippe Ciais said. Scientists had expressed concern about the climate and environmental impact of the leaks. They also stressed that the amounts of methane affected made up only a fraction of global emissions.

Last week, a total of four leaks were discovered on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which run from Russia through the Baltic Sea to Germany. All the leaks are located near the Danish island of Bornholm, two in Denmark’s economic zone and the other two in Sweden’s economic zone. Although the pipes are not in operation, they were filled with gas for technical reasons. The gas leak has now largely dried up.

According to a Danish-Swedish report to the UN Security Council, the leaks were caused by underwater explosions with an explosive force equivalent to “hundreds of kilograms” of explosives. Both the West and Russia accused it of sabotage. Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the West of being behind the explosions.

Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Nowak said the alleged sabotage against the Nord Stream pipelines apparently spared the Nord Stream 2 line, which Russia prefers. “As for Nord Stream 2, according to preliminary assessments, this pipeline is actually in a technically suitable condition,” Nowak said on state television. He offered to supply gas to Europe via this pipeline “in the shortest possible time”. At the same time, he called on Russia to participate in the investigation into the sabotage.

(This article was first published on Thursday, October 06, 2022.)

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