Nord Stream gas pipelines damaged: how much climate-damaging methane escaped?

Leaks in Nord Stream gas pipelines
Researcher: less methane than feared

How much climate-damaging methane escaped into the atmosphere from the damaged Nord Stream gas pipelines? Estimates are in the hundreds of thousands of tons. The French researchers refer to data from monitoring stations and are now talking about a much smaller amount.

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

The estimated amount released is equivalent to 2% of France’s carbon emissions, or Paris emissions for a full year, said Philippe Ciais. Scientists had expressed concern about the climate and the environmental impact of the leaks. They also pointed out that the quantities of methane affected represented only a fraction of global emissions.

A total of four leaks were discovered last week on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which run from Russia via the Baltic Sea to Germany. All the leaks are near the Danish island of Bornholm, two in the economic zone of Denmark and the other two in the economic zone of Sweden. Although the lines are not in operation, they have been filled with gas for technical reasons. Meanwhile, the gas leak has largely dried up.

According to a Danish-Swedish report by the UN Security Council, the losses were caused by underwater explosions with an explosive power equivalent to “hundreds of kilos” of explosives. Both the West and Russia have 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 would have spared the Nord Stream 2 line, which Russia prefers. “As for Nord Stream 2, according to preliminary assessments, this pipeline is indeed in technically adequate condition,” Nowak told state television. It has offered to supply gas to Europe through this pipeline “as soon as possible”. At the same time, he asked Russia to participate in the sabotage investigation.

(This article was first published on Thursday, October 6, 2022.)

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