Nord Stream gas leaks: an ecological disaster in perspective

Nord Stream gas leaks: an ecological disaster in perspective

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Due to damage to the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea, a huge amount of methane was released into the atmosphere. The leak is estimated to be equal to the annual methane emissions of a city the size of Paris or a country like Denmark. Since the leaks are still not plugged, the consequences of this release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere point to an unprecedented ecological disaster.

On September 26, 2022, after a series of explosions, the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines began to leak intensively. The pair of pipelines were built to transport natural gas from Russia to Germany across the Baltic Sea and are majority-owned by Russia’s state-owned gas company Gazprom.

The leaks occurred when the Baltic Pipeline was opened to flow natural gas from the North Sea through Denmark to Poland. According to CNNOfficials from several Western countries have said the leaks were likely the result of sabotage, promising a strong response as the investigation continues.

Right now, scientists are desperately trying to estimate how much gas is still leaking, knowing that missions to plug these pipes are impossible—anyone that comes close would be incinerated, even a plane flying over the area could be swept away. As the hours pass, the impending ecological disaster seems unprecedented.

Ecological disaster in the time of climate crisis?

From the air, it’s easy to see the largest of the four leaks, the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea have a boiling layer of water 700 meters wide.

According to BloombergGermany estimated that about 300,000 metric tons of methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases, entered the atmosphere as a result of these leaks. This amount of gas would have the same impact on the climate as the annual emissions of 1.4 million vehicles.

Methane emissions are confirmed by ground-based ICOS observations from several stations in Sweden, Norway and Finland. You should know that ICOS, or the Integrated Carbon Observing System, provides standardized and open data from more than 140 measuring stations in 14 European countries.

Alex Vermeulen, director of the ICOS Carbon Portal reports va communicated : ” At a later stage, we may be able to confirm and quantify the gas that escaped, and several ICOS scientists are currently discussing various possibilities. At the moment, especially considering the difficult weather conditions and the fact that methane is still bubbling from the pipeline, this is unfortunately not possible yet “.

This is reported by the RIA Novosti agency with reference to the gas pipeline operator Nord Stream AG Reutersgas leaks are expected to continue until Sunday, October 2.

Political sabotage with unknown climate consequences

As CNN none of the affected pipelines were in service but are believed to contain gas under pressure. In the coming days and weeks, scientists will continue to try to estimate the amount of methane released by the leaks. Seismologists could also help determine how the pipeline ruptured.

In addition, seismological institutes recorded explosions at the location of the leaks with magnitudes of 2.3 and 2.1 on the Richter scale. I guess it fits” an explosive charge of several hundred kilograms written by the Danish and Swedish UN missions and lettertaking over the sabotage hypothesis.

They added: “ Of concern is the possible impact on marine life in the Baltic Sea, and the climate impact would likely be very significant due to the large amount of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere. “.

Indeed, methane is one of the most powerful greenhouse gases. In 100 years, it will warm the atmosphere about 30 times more than carbon dioxide. The size and timing of the leak puts even more emphasis on climate action as we are currently in critical years for slowing climate change.

Not to mention that the gas present in the pipelines is not refined, there are traces of toxic compounds such as benzene that could significantly contaminate fish intended for human consumption and could also negatively affect the ecosystems of the area.

However, in a magazine article NatureZeke Hausfather, a climatologist at Berkeley Earth, a nonprofit data analysis organization in California, explains that this does not fundamentally change the scale of global emissions from fracking, coal mining and oil extraction.

Estimating the exact amount of methane that has escaped into the atmosphere is an extremely difficult task. Many so-called superemitter events—large, continuous releases of methane—are captured by satellite imagery over terrestrial pipelines or fossil fuel production sites. But capturing accurate data over water is much more difficult because water absorbs most of the sunlight and masks any signal from the methane in the spectrometer.

There are a number of other uncertainties — the amount of gas in the pipeline at any given time, the temperature and pressure at which it was held, and the extent of the pipeline rupture. Even if the gas escapes, some is likely to have dissipated into the water, but this also depends on the density of microbial life as well as depth. In order to get accurate readings, an aircraft would probably have to take measurements from the air.

As scientists estimate the leak from the damaged Nord Stream gas pipelines, it appears to release more methane into the atmosphere than any previously known event. The consequences for climate are likely to be unprecedented, as well as for biodiversity and human life.

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