Explosions rocked the Baltic Sea before unusual leaks were discovered at two natural gas pipelines running underwater from Russia to Germany, seismologists said on Tuesday.
Some European leaders and experts point to possible sabotage during an energy confrontation with Russia provoked by the war in Ukraine.
The three leaks in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which are loaded with natural gas but not delivering the fuel to Europe, overshadowed the inauguration of a long-awaited pipeline that will bring Norwegian gas to Poland in a bid to secure the continent’s energy independence from Moscow strengthen .
The first blast was recorded southeast of the Danish island of Bornholm early Monday, said Björn Lund, director of the Swedish National Seismic Network. A second, more powerful blast northeast of the island that night corresponded to a magnitude 2.3 earthquake.
The explosions were also registered by seismic stations in Norway and Finland.
“There is no doubt that this is not an earthquake,” Lund said.
The gas leaks created a foamy white area on the water’s surface, images released by Denmark’s military show.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called the events “an act of sabotage”, while Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said she could not rule it out.
During a ceremony near Goleniow in northwestern Poland, together with Polish President Andrzej Duda, they symbolically opened the valve of a yellow tube belonging to the Baltic Pipe, a new system that will transport Norwegian gas to Poland via Denmark and the Baltic Sea.
“The era of Russian dominance in the gas sector is coming to an end,” Morawiecki said.
“An era marked by blackmail, threats and blackmail.”
No official provided evidence of what caused the Nord Stream troubles, but given the widespread distrust of Russia, some feared Moscow is sabotaging its own infrastructure out of spite or to warn that pipelines are vulnerable to attack.
The leaks in international waters off the coasts of Denmark and Sweden raised the stakes as to whether energy infrastructure was under attack and resulted in a small spike in natural gas prices.
“We can clearly see that this is an act of sabotage, an act that probably means a next level of escalation of the situation we are dealing with in Ukraine,” Morawiecki said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters that American officials have not confirmed either sabotage or an attack.
Anders Puck Nielsen, a researcher at the Center for Maritime Operations at the Royal Danish Defense College, said the timing of the leaks was “conspicuous” given the ceremony for the Baltic Pipe.
He said maybe someone was trying to “send out a signal that something could happen to the Norwegian gas”.
The extent of the damage means the Nord Stream pipelines are unlikely to be able to transport gas to Europe this winter, even if there is the political will to bring them online, analysts at Eurasia Group said. Russia halted the flow of the 1,224-kilometer (760-mile) Nord Stream 1 pipeline during the war, while Germany prevented it from ever launching in the parallel Nord Stream 2.
“Depending on the extent of the damage, the leaks could even mean a permanent closure of both lines,” write analysts Henning Gloystein and Jason Bush.
They found that subsea pipelines are designed not to be accidentally damaged and leaks are rare.
Puck Nielsen said of possible sabotage: “Technically it’s not difficult. It only takes one boat. It requires some divers who know how to handle explosive devices.”
“But I think if we look at who would actually benefit from disruption, more chaos in the gas market in Europe, I think there’s basically only one player right now that actually benefits from more uncertainty and that’s Russia.” , he said.
When asked if the leaks might have been caused by sabotage, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “no version could be ruled out”.
“This is an unprecedented situation that requires urgent investigation. We are very concerned by this news,” he said on a conference call with reporters.
The Danish and Swedish maritime authorities issued navigational warnings. On the east coast of Bornholm, the Danish Civil Protection Agency installed equipment that measures gas concentrations in the air. Local police said: “Authorities believe there are no safety or health risks.”
Denmark has also put in place a restricted area to ensure ships avoid the leaks. Ships can lose buoyancy, and there may also be a risk of ignition over the water and in the air, authorities said.
The Nord Stream pipelines have been at the center of an energy conflict between Europe and Russia since the invasion of Ukraine in late February. Falling Russian gas supplies have pushed up prices and pressured governments to ease the pain of sky-high energy bills for homes and businesses as winter approaches. The crisis has also fueled fears of rationing and recession.
A prominent element in the European Union’s quest for energy security, the Baltic Pipe is scheduled to begin transporting Norwegian gas through Denmark and along the Baltic Sea to Poland on October 1.
Simone Tagliapietra, an energy expert at the Bruegel think tank in Brussels, speculated that the leaks could have been caused by Russian sabotage or anti-Russian sabotage.
One possibility is that Russia will signal that it is “breaking forever with Western Europe and Germany” while Poland inaugurates its pipeline with Norway, he said.
“In any case, this is a stark reminder of the risks facing Europe’s gas infrastructure,” said Tagliapietra.
Andrzej Sikora, the head of the Energy Studies Institute think tank in Poland, said he had been warning of potential attacks on the pipeline infrastructure since Nord Stream 1 was built in 2010. He urged steps to ensure the safety of the Ostsee Pipe, which intersects both Nord Stream pipelines at one point.
https://www.independent.ie/news/leaks-on-russian-gas-pipelines-raise-concerns-about-sabotage-42021676.html Leaks in Russian gas pipelines raise concerns about sabotage