COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Damaged Nord Stream pipelines connecting Russia to Europe are leaking natural gas at an alarming rate into the Baltic Sea and the atmosphere, in what some say could be the largest-ever single release of methane.
Scientists worldwide are monitoring the sudden release of methane into the atmosphere after multiple leaks from the damaged Nord Stream pipelines. The pipeline leaks were first discovered in the waters southeast of the Danish island of Bornholm on Tuesday. The day before the discovery, area seismologists said they detected two explosions in the vicinity of the affected pipelines.
According to CNN, more than 100,000 metric tons of natural gas, which is 90% methane, is rising from the ocean’s surface. Methane is believed to contribute to global warming.
Zitely Tzompa Sosa, an atmospheric scientist at the Clean Air Task Force, told CNN that the amount of methane released is concerning, especially if the greenhouse gas enters the atmosphere.
“That would be equivalent to about a third of Germany’s total methane emissions from the energy sector in 2020, which is about 5% of Europe’s methane emissions from the energy sector,” Sosa told CNN.
Paul Balcombe, a senior lecturer in chemical engineering and renewable energy at London’s Queen Mary University, said that methane is a potent greenhouse gas and told The Washington Post that “even a little leak has quite a climate impact.”
Other scientists voiced concerns about the significant release of methane but aren’t sure if the release of methane will affect climate change.
Drew Shindell, a professor of earth science at Duke University, said that the amount released is significant but may not have a major effect on climate change.
“It’s not trivial, but it’s a modest-sized U.S. city, something like that. There are so many sources all around the world. Any single event tends to be small. I think this tends to fall in that category,” Shindell told the Washington Post.
Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Gas Hydrates Project are monitoring the leaks. They say that if the methane reaches the atmosphere, it would equal about 0.1% of the estimated annual global methane emissions.
The leak is expected to continue until Sunday, according to energy experts.
Western officials cite sabotage as the likely cause of damage to the natural gas pipelines.
The Danish and Swedish governments have said that they believe the leaks were “deliberate actions.” On Thursday, the NATO military alliance warned it would retaliate for any attacks on the critical infrastructure of its 30 member countries, according to The Associated Press.
In a statement obtained by AP, NATO ambassadors said that “any deliberate attack against allies’ critical infrastructure would be met with a united and determined response.” They didn’t say who they thought was responsible, even though some allies and experts have said they believe that Russia is responsible.
Two leaks are on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline that Russia recently turned off as it ramped up energy pressure on Europe. The other two are on Nord Stream 2, which has never been used.
Moscow spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in a conference call with reporters, “it looks like a terror attack, probably conducted on a state level.”
Peskov responded to media reports on Russian warships being spotted in the area of the incident as “stupid and biased.”
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