“ The explosions come after Russia has mobilized for war , organized sham referendums , and made nuclear threats to make up for its floundering invasion of Ukraine . Russia may feel the West is underestimating its strength and wants to send a clear message that it must be taken seriously ”
Pipeline “ sabotage ”
Europe is beefing up security around key energy infrastructure following an apparent act of sabotage on the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines that run through the Baltic Sea .
By Jeff Coelho and Laurence Walker
The first sign of trouble occurs on 26 September when the Russia majority-owned operator reports a pressure drop on both strings of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline , built with an annual capacity of 55bcm – or around 40 % of the EU ’ s total pipeline imports from Russia .
On the next day , Nord Stream AG says that “ physical damage ” is the likely cause of gas leaks on both lines located northeast from Bornholm , a Danish island near the south coast of Sweden . Swedish and Danish maritime authorities establish a five nautical mile safety zone around the leaks on both Nord Stream 1 and its sister pipeline Nord Stream 2 .
Denmark ’ s Defence Command releases video footage showing the leaks bubbling on the surface of the sea , with the largest 1km in diameter . Swedish seismologists say they detected explosions near and at the time of the ruptures . In a letter dated 29 September , Sweden and Denmark inform the UN Security Council that two detonations – “ probably corresponding to an explosive load of several hundred kilos ” – occurred underwater , damaging the pipelines and causing major leaks of natural gas into the Baltic Sea . Two leaks occurred in Denmark ’ s exclusive economic zone and two in Sweden ’ s exclusive economic zone . The explosions , they say , “ are a result of a deliberate act ”. According to Denmark ’ s Energy Agency , the gas spewing out of the leaks may amount to nearly a third of the nation ’ s CO2 emissions , creating a significant climate risk .
The incident raises the stakes in Europe ’ s energy security as tensions escalate between the West and Russia over its war in Ukraine , analysts say . It also highlights the region ’ s vulnerability to any future attacks , particularly as Norway overtakes Russia as Europe ’ s main gas supplier .
“ The most immediate concern will be for the security of pipelines connecting Norway and Europe , including the newly opened Baltic Pipeline ,” say analysts at the ( CSIS ) Center for Strategic and International Studies , a US-based think tank . “ Beyond pipeline explosions , vulnerability to cyberattacks could pose a significant threat to the energy system .”
Montel Magazine 3 – 2022
European and Russian authorities do agree that the ruptures in the Nord Stream pipelines are likely a deliberate act . And while investigations remain ongoing , both sides have much to lose .
“ Europe suffers as its gas market is poised to stay extremely tight for longer with physical shortages looking near certain ,” says Katja Yafimava , senior research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies . “ Russia suffers as it loses access to the shortest and direct route to the European market .” While Russia still has long-term contracts to supply gas to Europe until 2030 , all of its other export routes to western Europe involve transit countries , such as Ukraine and Poland , “ relations with which are at a breaking point ”, she says . “ Non-Russian gas exporters benefit as their gas becomes even more sought after ”.
Prior to its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February , Russia supplied the EU with around 40 % of its gas and around a quarter of its oil . Most of that gas was pumped through Nord Stream 1 ’ s twin pipeline system stretching 1,224km through the Baltic Sea from Vyborg , Russia to Lubmin near Grefswald , Germany . Fully launched in 2012 , it was meant to provide gas to businesses and households in the EU for at least 50 years .
Today , Russian gas supplies are less than 10 % of the EU ’ s needs last year due to sharp cuts in deliveries from state-run company Gazprom . At the same time , EU sanctions against Moscow for its war on Ukraine includes a plan to wean off Russian fossil fuels . Russia stopped pumping gas through Nord Stream 1 late in August , citing technical and maintenance issues . EU officials have criticised the Kremlin for using energy as a weapon by cutting supply and causing European energy prices to spike . The construction of Nord Stream 2 was completed last year and designed to double the network ’ s gas flows , but Germany blocked its certification in February when Russian troops were advancing on Ukraine in a major escalation of a conflict that began in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea .
The source behind the explosions and damage to the pipelines remains a mystery . The EU has called the incidents “ a deliberate act ”