MOSCOW, October 2 – Novosti, Nikolai Guryanov. The attacks on the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines resulted in the release of huge amounts of methane into the sea and atmosphere. How big is the scale of the disaster and how it will affect the ecology of the Baltic Sea – in the material of Novosti.
A third of Denmark or the whole of Sweden
Explosions with a capacity of 500 kilograms of TNT actually destroyed both pipelines. At the same time, gas was pumped even in the never-launched Nord Stream 2. Since the transport systems did not have containment mechanisms in case of such damage, all the methane was released into the environment.
Denmark, Sweden (in whose exclusive economic zones the sabotage took place) and Germany released different data on the extent of the leak. But everyone focused on emissions into the atmosphere.
To determine the impact of methane on the climate, it is common to convert it to the equivalent of carbon dioxide (CO2). The global warming potential is calculated either for 100 or 20 years. In the first case, the warming effect of methane exceeds that of CO2 by 28 times, and in the second, by 84 times.
The German Federal Environment Agency (UBA) has estimated that explosions in pipelines under the Baltic Sea have released 300,000 metric tons of methane, equivalent to 7.5 million tons of CO2 over a century. This corresponds to about one percent of Germany’s annual total emissions, according to the agency’s report.
UBA calculations are made based on the length of the pipes (1250 kilometers), their diameter (1.1 meters), internal pressure (100 bar) and temperature (ten degrees).
© . CC BY-SA 3.0 / NordNordWest ” -1″ ” -2″
© Infographics. CC BY-SA 3.0 / NordNordWest
Sabotage on the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines
The Danish Energy Agency has slightly different data (two of the four leaks occurred near the Danish island of Bornholm): 778 million cubic meters of natural gas, which is equivalent to 14.6 million tons of CO2, or 32 percent of all greenhouse gases produced by the country in 2020. A 100-year period was also laid down there.
In Sweden, a 20-year forecast horizon is considered more correct, since methane decays in the atmosphere faster than carbon dioxide. “Leaks correspond to 40 million tons of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. This is comparable to Sweden’s total climate emissions last year of 48 million tons,” writes Svt Nyheter, citing an environmental economist at the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.
Millions of cars
Jean-Francois Gaultier, vice president of global emissions modeling service GHGSat, quoted by the Financial Times , compares the leak from SP-1 and SP-2 to a million cars.
“By any measure, this is a catastrophic level. It is especially unusual to see this in such a short period of time,” Gauthier emphasizes.
According to the International Energy Agency , annual global methane emissions reach 570 million tons. Compared to this, the leakage from the destroyed Nord Streams is not so great.
However, the incident in the Baltic Sea is the largest man-made disaster associated with the release of CH4 into the atmosphere. Prior to that, this was considered an accident in the Aliso Canyon in California in 2015, where 100,000 tons of methane got into the environment from an underground storage facility in a year.
Environmentalists and oceanologists are quite optimistic.
“My opinion is that these are one-time mega-emissions that are capable of causing short-term powerful, but very localized disturbances. It is unlikely that there will be long-term serious consequences,” says Andrey Gebruk , deputy director of the Institute of Oceanology of the Russian Academy of Sciences .
According to him, a targeted blow has been dealt to the Baltic ecosystem. This could lead to the death of organisms – it is even possible that mass death, if some school of fish happened to be in the incident zone. But despite the apparent catastrophic nature, the damage to nature is not very big.
“If the gas came out constantly, then there would be a serious impact. I think, from the point of view of ecosystems, there will be no traces left in a few weeks,” the Novosti interlocutor explains.
Vadim Paka, Chief Researcher at the Atlantic Branch of the IO RAS, notes that methane is constantly released from the seabed. And in this case, there was just a volley ejection.
“Everything will end with the gas escaping into the atmosphere,” says the oceanologist. “As for the chemical phenomena associated with the explosion, I believe that nothing will happen either, because there is a large density stratification in the Baltic, that is, bottom water is much heavier than water in the intermediate layers So the products of the explosion will remain in the same place and fall to the bottom.”
Consequences of demilitarization
Another disturbing circumstance is connected with the Nord Stream explosions: after the Second World War, according to the decision of the Potsdam Conference on the demilitarization of Germany, German chemical weapons were buried at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. A significant part – just in the area of the island of Bronholm, near which the attacks occurred. They flooded 32,000 tons of ammunition with 11,000 tons of poisonous substances. Up to 70 percent is mustard gas, 20 percent are arsenic-containing substances.
The Soviet military brought shells and containers here and simply dumped them into the sea – they did not know any other way of disposal at that time. Now in the area of ”Nord Streams” chemical weapons are “in bulk”, specifies Paka.
CW flooding areas in the Baltic Sea (red figures). The arrows show the flow diagram
However, according to him, there is nothing to be afraid of. In the course of research, it turned out that the pipeline in the once dangerous territory now poses no threat. At the burial site of shells with poisonous filling, marine life flourishes, there is no lack of oxygen.
“Most likely, the weapon was depressurized a long time ago and came into contact with the marine environment. Nature did not react in any way. In the conditions of the Baltic Sea, any resuspension is localized. My opinion is that environmentalists have nothing to worry about,” the oceanologist emphasizes.
Meanwhile, the methane leak continues. The Danish Energy Agency reports that much of the gas has already exited the pipes. Emissions are expected to be completed by Sunday.