Gas leaks at Nord Stream pipelines: sabotage cannot be ruled out

Leaks were found after the pressure dropped in both Baltic Sea pipelines. Experts consider an act of sabotage to be conceivable. Poland brings Russia into play.

A ship with cranes on calm water, the sky is blue

Work on Nord Stream 2 in 2018 – leaks have now been reported from the idle pipeline Photo: dpa/Bernd Wuestneck

STOCKHOLM/LUBMIN dpa | After the damage to the Nord Stream gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea, authorities in Germany and Denmark continue to search for the cause. The Danish Navy and German specialists were trying to find out, the German Press Agency learned from security circles on Tuesday morning. The cause of the incidents has not yet been clarified. However, there is a lot to be said for sabotage. If it were an attack, given the technical complexity, only a state actor would actually come into question. The “Tagesspiegel” had previously reported on this.

Poland does not rule out that the leaks in the gas pipelines discovered by the Danish authorities North Stream 1 and 2 were due to a Russian provocation. The country is in a situation of high international tension, said Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz on Tuesday in Warsaw. “Unfortunately, our eastern neighbor is constantly pursuing an aggressive policy. If he is capable of an aggressive military policy in Ukraine, it is obvious that provocations cannot be ruled out, even in the sectors that are in Western Europe.”

Russia also does not rule out sabotage or other reasons. “Now no variant can be ruled out,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday when asked whether sabotage could be the reason for the drop in pressure.

Exclusion zones for ships at Bornholm

On the night of Monday, one of the two tubes was the unused pipeline Nord Stream 2 a sharp drop in pressure was observed. On Monday evening, the operator then also reported a pressure drop in both tubes of Nord Stream 1.

Because of the leaks, the responsible Danish shipping authority has set up restricted zones for shipping near the Danish island of Bornholm. Danish authorities have discovered a total of three leaks in the gas pipelines. The Danish energy authority announced on Tuesday that there was talk of two leaks on Nord Stream 1 northeast of the Baltic Sea island of Bornholm and one on Nord Stream 2 southeast of the island. In the case of Nord Stream 1, one leak is in Danish waters and the other in Swedish waters. The Nord Stream 2 leak is in Danish waters.

Nord Stream 2 spokesman: Accident highly unlikely

Investigations are currently being carried out, said a spokesman for Nord Stream AG, which is responsible for Nord Stream 1. No information can be given beforehand on the extent of any damage. In the area around Bornholm, the lines are about 70 meters below the water surface, he says. According to Nord Stream 2 spokesman Ulrich Lissek, the lines are laid in such a way that it is highly unlikely that several lines will be damaged at the same time, for example by a single ship accident. When asked if he was aware of similar incidents involving offshore pipelines, he said: “I’ve never heard of them.”

In an interview with the German Press Agency, an expert for underwater robots also referred to the extremely high safety standards and the very robust construction of the lines. From his point of view, only deliberate manipulation is possible. According to his assessment, authorities will now carry out investigations with diving robots.

Danish authorities: Ships could lose drive

As the Danish newspaper “Jyllands-Posten” reported, citing the Danish military, the leak at Nord Stream 2 was discovered by Danish F-16 fighter jets on Monday. They were therefore sent into the air from Bornholm to photograph the area. They had discovered that at a point south-east of the island bubbles had risen from the water.

According to the Danish Energy Agency, ships may lose propulsion when entering the area. There is also a risk of ignition. There is no danger outside the zone, not even for the residents of Bornholm and the small neighboring island of Christiansø.

German and Danish authorities pointed out that the incidents had no impact on the gas supply, as the pipelines had not recently been used for gas imports.

Environmental consequences according to BUND “locally limited”

The Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz (BUND) estimates the possible short-term effects of the leaks on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines on the environment as locally limited.

While gas was still flowing from Russia to Germany via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline until a few weeks ago – albeit with reduced capacity – the German government put the approval for import via Nord Stream 2 on hold shortly before the Russian attack on Ukraine been. After that, she had ruled out use because of the war.

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