27 Sep 2022, 13:24
Benjamin Wehrmann

Leaks in both Nord Stream gas pipelines put European authorities on alert

Clean Energy Wire / Tagesspiegel Background / Deutsche Welle

Authorities in Germany, Sweden and Denmark are investigating a sudden drop of pressure in the two offshore Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines that connect Germany with Russia through the Baltic Sea. “We’re in contact with the affected authorities and the federal grid agency (BNetzA) to clarify the situation,” a spokesperson for the economy and climate ministry (BMWK) said in an e-mailed statement on Monday. “The cause of the drop in pressure is currently unknown,” they said, adding that the two separate incidents at the pipelines are not altering Germany’s gas supply situation. BNetzA head Klaus Müller told Clean Energy Wire it was unclear whether similar incidents could also occur at other pipelines supplying Germany, for example ones running from Norway. “Nobody can say this at the moment,” Müller commented, adding that his agency will work with colleagues in other countries to assess the situation.

The leaks show that Germany must take time to assess its resilience, said Müller at the Gas 2022 conference by business daily Handelsblatt in Berlin. “Now in crisis management it is probably too early, but I appeal that Germany urgently needs to pause at the right time to discuss how to become more resilient,” he said. This discussion could include questions such as whether the country has enough storage capacity, how to permanently become independent from foreign fossil fuels, and how to speed up the energy transition, he explained.

According to energy policy newsletter Tagesspiegel Background, German authorities suspect a targeted attack may have been carried out, as both pipelines were affected simultaneously. “Our phantasy does not allow a scenario in which this has not been a targeted attack,” a source close to the government told Tagesspiegel. “Everything speaks against a coincidence.” Danish authorities said a gas leak from Nord Stream 2 was detected near the island of Bornholm and subsequently established a safety zone of five nautical miles to protect vessels in the area, news website Deutsche Welle reported. Also Swedish authorities repported to have found leaks in Nord Stream 1, bringing the number of total reported leaks to three.

NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH) said the suspected leak could already have released “substantial amounts” of the greenhouse gas methane into the Baltic Sea. The incident showed that licenses for Nord Stream 2 were granted prematurely, DUH said, arguing that all existing licenses should be revoked.

The Nord Steam 2 pipeline has never entered into operation, as Germany’s government halted the final approval due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Gas deliveries through Nord Stream 1 were already halted in late August, with Russia claiming that technical problems had forced state-owned company Gazprom to shut down Europe’s most important gas pipeline entirely. However, both pipelines held large volumes of gas.

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