Europe probes 'attacks' on gas pipelines from Russia to Europe

Gas bubbles from the Nord Stream 2 leak reaching surface of the Baltic Sea in the area shows disturbance of well over one kilometre diameter near Bornholm, Denmark, September 27, 2022. Danish Defence Command/Handout via REUTERS

On Tuesday, Europe launched an investigation into what Germany, Denmark, and Sweden said were attacks that caused large gas leaks into the Baltic Sea from two Russian gas pipelines at the center of an energy conflict.

However, it remained unclear who may have been responsible for the leaks that were first discovered on Monday or any foul play, if established, on the Nord Stream pipelines that Russia and its European partners spent billions of dollars to construct.

Robert Habeck, the German economy minister, told business leaders that the infrastructure breaches were the result of deliberate attacks, and Berlin now knows for certain "that they were not caused by natural occurrences or events or material fatigue."

Sweden's and Denmark's prime ministers asserted that the leaks were the result of deliberate acts, with evidence pointing to sabotage, whilst Poland's prime minister accused sabotage without providing evidence.

Russia, which reduced gas shipments to Europe after the West imposed sanctions over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, also stated that sabotage was a possibility and that the leaks compromised the continent's energy security.

A top Ukrainian official stated, without evidence, that the incident was a Russian attempt to destabilize Europe.

At the commissioning of a new pipeline between Norway and Poland, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki stated, "We see clearly that it's an act of sabotage, related to the next step of escalation of the situation in Ukraine,"

Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson stated at a news conference that two explosions had been detected about the leaks. While this did not constitute an attack on Sweden, her government was in close contact with allies such as NATO and neighbors such as Denmark and Germany regarding the developments.

On Monday, seismologists in Denmark and Sweden detected two huge explosions in the region of the leaks.

"The signals do not resemble earthquake signals. They are similar to the signals commonly captured from explosions "According to the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS),

And seismologists from Sweden's Uppsala University, which collaborates with GEUS, stated that the second, larger explosion "corresponded to more than 100 kilos (kg) of dynamite" adding that the explosions occurred in the ocean and not on the seafloor.

The Nord Stream pipelines have been flashpoints in an intensifying energy conflict between European and Russian capitals, which has harmed key Western economies, driven gas prices soaring, and prompted the search for alternative suppliers.

"Germany is a nation that is capable of defending itself. And Europe is capable of protecting its energy infrastructure "Habeck of Germany added that the electricity supply of Europe's largest economy was unaffected.

The largest gas leak, according to the armed forces of Denmark, created a surface disturbance well over 1 km (0.6 miles) in diameter.

Kristoffer Botzauw, the chairman of Denmark's Energy Agency, stated that gas could take up to a week to stop leaking from the Nord Stream 2 pipeline due to the magnitude of the leaks.

The area could cause ships to lose buoyancy if they enter there.

"The sea surface is full of methane, which means there is an increased risk of explosions in the area," Bottzauw stated.

The Swedish Maritime Administration (SMA) reported two Nord Stream 1 leak northeast of Denmark's Bornholm, one in the Swedish economic zone and the other in the Danish zone.

"We are keeping extra watch to make sure no ship comes too close to the site," an SMA official said.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov termed it "very disturbing news. In fact, we are discussing damage of uncertain character to a pipeline in the Danish economic zone." He stated that it affected the energy security of the continent.

Neither pipeline was pumping gas to Europe at the time the leaks were discovered, but the events will eliminate the possibility that Europe will get fuel via Nord Stream 1 before winter.

The operator of the Nord Stream pipeline described the damage as "unprecedented."

Gazprom, the Kremlin-controlled monopoly on Russian gas pipeline exports, refuses to comment.

"There are some indications that it is deliberate damage," a European security source said, adding that it was too soon to draw any conclusions. "You have to ask: Who would profit?"

Energy Minister Terje Aasland said in a statement that Norway will increase security at its oil and gas plants in response to leaks and indications of drone activity in the North Sea.

The Danish government has requested that the level of preparedness in its power and gas sector be increased, a move that would necessitate increased safety for power plants and facilities.

Cutting supplies

Russia cut gas deliveries to Europe via Nord Stream 1 before suspending flows entirely in August, attributing technical issues to Western sanctions. European lawmakers assert that this was a pretext to cease gas delivery.

The new Nord Stream 2 pipeline had not yet begun operating commercially. The proposal to use it to supply gas was abandoned by Germany days before Russia's February "special military operation," in Ukraine, as described by Moscow.

"The multiple undersea leaks mean neither pipeline will likely deliver any gas to the EU over the coming winter, irrespective of political developments in the Ukraine war," Eurasia Group noted in a note.

European gas prices increased in response to the announcement, with the benchmark Dutch price for October increasing over 10% on Tuesday. Prices are more than 200 percent higher than they were at the beginning of September 2021.

Publish : 2022-09-28 10:59:00

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