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The Nord Stream Pipeline Leaks

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October 04, 2022

Why in news?

Four leaks were reported (two in Swedish waters and 2 in Danish waters) in Nord Stream pipelines linking Russia and Europe.

What is Nord Stream Pipeline?

  • 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.

nordleaks

What is the current leak about?

  • 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.

What will be the impact of the leaks?

  • 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.

What steps can countries take to protect their critical infrastructure?

  • The Nord Stream incident shows the importance of surveillance, and making sure countries know which boats and submarines are around the pipeline.
  • The steps involves
    • Building more protective pipes that can withstand intrusion
    • Controlling access to pipelines
    • Monitoring them
    • Intercepting potential attacks

 

References

  1. https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/explained-the-nord-stream-pipeline-leaks-what-happened-and-what-is-at-stake/article65950516.ece?homepage=true
  2. https://www.npr.org/2022/10/03/1126517181/nord-stream-pipeline-leaks-protecting-critical-infrastructure
  3. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/9/27/qa-what-is-known-so-far-about-the-nord-stream-gas-pipeline-leak
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