and vowed to “ take further steps to increase our resilience in energy security ”. “ Any deliberate disruption of European energy infrastructure is utterly unacceptable and will be met with a robust and united response ,” the Council of Europe said on 28 September , with backing by Efta countries Iceland , Norway and Liechtenstein as well as EU candidate nations including Ukraine .
Norway is now Europe ’ s biggest supplier of gas . The prime minister , Jonas Gahr Store , has said the nation ’ s armed forces will be more visible in the areas around its gas and oil infrastructure , while authorities will guard against potential cyberattacks . Sweden , Germany and Italy are among several other countries vowing to tighten security around their energy infrastructure , such as nuclear power plants and subsea gas and oil pipelines . For instance , authorities in Italy say they are making random checks on pipeline infrastructure .
US-led Nato has said all available information indicates that the pipeline leaks are the result of “ deliberate , reckless and irresponsible acts of sabotage ”. The 30-member military alliance declares that “ any deliberate attack against Allies ’ critical infrastructure would be met with a united and determined response ”.
The US has suggested that Russia could be behind the Nord Stream gas leaks . Russia ’ s president , Vladimir Putin , has described the damage to the pipelines as “ unprecedented sabotage ”, with Moscow dismissing suggestions that it is responsible for the damage as “ stupid and absurd ”. Russian officials have indicated that the US could gain by the pipelines ’ demise , by exporting more LNG to Europe , an allegation Washington firmly rejects .
“ Context is important ,” say the analysts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies ( CSIS ). “ 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 ,” they say .
“ However , the Kremlin ’ s motives for conducting an attack on its own pipelines are not fully clear . Russia may be warning and signalling to Europe and the West that it is willing to target civilian infrastructure . Attacks on gas pipelines today could foreshadow attacks on undersea data cables tomorrow .” For instance , they point out that in May 2021 , a cyberattack against the Colonial Pipeline in the US halted operations and led to fuel shortages and panic buying across the East Coast . “ Earlier this year , a cyberattack at the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp refining hub led to significant delays in the oil and refined production shipments and local shortages of fuel .”
“ In an escalating energy war , attacks on the grid will also be a concern , as Russian hackers have previously demonstrated their ability to disrupt operations ,” the CSIS says , noting that in 2015 , Russian
14 hackers carried out an attack on the Ukrainian power grid , resulting in power outages for 230,000 people .
“ Successful attacks against the grid could result in power outages impacting critical operations including healthcare and access to water . Addressing some of these vulnerabilities will likely require significant investment and cross-Atlantic cooperation on cyber and physical security of energy infrastructure . Beyond malicious attacks , downtime due to aging infrastructure or outages due to accidents will have outsized impacts on tight energy markets . Energy security for Europe will increasingly entail securing and maintaining critical infrastructure .”
Indeed , Denmark ’ s power and gas network operator Energinet has notified companies in those sectors to increase their emergency preparedness levels to boost security of facilities , buildings and installations . “ These specific measures vary , depending on the type of facility , and are not communicated publicly for security reasons ,” according to the TSO , also a partner of the recently launched Baltic Pipe , which transports gas from Norway to the Danish and Polish markets .
In the meantime , analysts are doubtful that gas flows through Nord Stream 1 will resume anytime soon , if at all . “ It could take months before the pipelines are repaired , says Katja Yafimava with the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies . “ Apart from technical difficulties one would also have to factor in the fact that there are sanctions in place which would likely seriously complicate any repair process . All in all , difficult to expect this taking less than at least half a year .”
Trevor Sikorski , head of natural gas and carbon research at UK-based Energy Aspects , agrees . “ I can ’ t see any meaningful timeline for when those holes would be fixed . It ’ s unlikely that gas is going to be sent from Russia down that pipeline anytime soon and it really underlines how it is increasingly unlikely it is that Europe will ever go back to taking Russian gas .”
It is now early in October , and Nord Stream AG says that the pressure in both lines of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline have been stabilised , but the Russia-led consortium “ is unable to inspect damaged sections of the gas pipeline due to the lack of earlier requested necessary permits ”.
“ In particular , according to the Swedish authorities , a ban on shipping , anchoring , diving , using of underwater vehicles , geophysical mapping , etc . has been introduced to conduct a state investigation around the damage sites in the Baltic Sea .”
It adds that according to the Danish authorities , “ the processing time of the Nord Stream AG request for the survey may take more than 20 working days ”. It says it remains in “ close contact with relevant authorities ”. Moreover , it points out that Norwegian authorities have not given the owner of the equipped survey vessel chartered by Nord Stream AG “ the green light ” to depart . n
Montel Magazine 3 – 2022