Danish Armed Forces released remarkable footage of massive leaks of natural gas bubbling up from the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to the surface of the Baltic Sea. There were also two leaks reported on the twin Nord Stream 1 pipelines in Swedish and Danish waters.
Danish authorities restricted shipping, imposed a small no-fly zone. There are three leaks, said Danish Prime Minister Metta Frederiksen. “It is hard to imagine that what is happening is a coincidence.” The Polish prime minister said it must be sabotage. A Ukrainian official called it a Russian attack.
Nord Stream 1 consists of two parallel lines that can each carry 27.5 billion cubic meters of gas 1,220 miles from Vyborg, Russia, to Lubmin, Germany. From there the gas branches off into the European grid. For years Nord Stream 1 had been Europe’s biggest import pipe. In July Russia had cut deliveries on Nord Stream 1 to just 20% of capacity, blaming lack of spare parts for a compressor station. Gazprom owns 51%, with German, French and Dutch partners.
Nord Stream 2 had been completed in 2021 but has never been used. So how is there any gas in it to leak out? Because the operators of the line had filled it with 117 million cubic meters of gas in order to commission and test the line. As pressures rapidly decline the dramatic half-mile-wide Baltic Sea bubble show will fade.
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reportedly said the Kremlin was “extremely worried” and that “no variant can be ruled out,” when considering the cause. “This is an absolutely unprecedented situation that needs to be resolved quickly.”
And there is plenty of grist for the conspiracy mill—that maybe President Joe Biden had called in a hit on the pipelines. Biden, earlier this year (at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz), threatened to “bring an end” to Nord Stream 2 if Russia invaded.
“If Russia invades—that means tanks or troops crossing the border of Ukraine, again, then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2,” Biden said. “We will bring an end to it.”
“But how will you do that exactly, since the project and control of the project is within Germany’s control?” asked Andrea Shalal of Reuters.
“We will, I promise you, we’ll be able to do it,” said Biden.
Researchers at Uppsala University reportedly registered seismic waves in the vicinity of the pipelines that would be indicative of explosive blasts in the concrete-coated sections of steel pipe resting on the Baltic Sea floor. For the ruptures to have caused such enormous bubbling, the damage is presumed to be severe—underscoring for Europeans the harsh reality that there won’t be any miracle peace settlement that turns the Russian gas taps back on this winter. And it will certainly convince any holdouts that Europe must find a long-term bypass for Russian energy arteries. European gas prices jumped 14% on the day.
The upside, if any, goes to American gas frackers, as it solidifies near-term European demand for American LNG.