Huge explosions detected close to Russian gas pipeline after leaks caused by ‘sabotage’

Huge explosions detected close to Russian gas pipeline after leaks caused by ‘sabotage’

Powerful underwater explosions have been recorded by seismologists in Denmark and Sweden after the discovery of gas leaks in major Russian gas pipelines to Europe.

The discovery of the explosion came after Denmark’s prime minister claimed the leaks may have been caused by sabotage.

“There is no doubt that these were explosions,” Bjorn Lund, a seismologist at Sweden’s National Seismology Centre told SVT.

If the explosions are linked to sabotaged leaks, it could dramatically escalate European concerns over the supply of Russian energy to the continent, which many nations remain reliant on despite a scramble to find other sources since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Earlier, Sweden‘s Maritime Authority said it had issued a warning after discovery of the leaks on the Russian-owned Nord Stream 1 pipeline in Swedish and Danish waters, shortly after another one was found on the nearby Nord Stream 2 project.

“There are two leaks on Nord Stream 1 – one in Swedish economic zone and one in Danish economic zone. They are very near each other,” a Swedish Maritime Administration (SMA) spokesperson told Reuters.

The leaks were located northeast of the Danish island Bornholm, the spokesperson said however it was not immediately clear what had caused the leaks.

Notably, Denmark’s prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, said she “cannot rule out” sabotage after the leaks were detected on Russian natural gas pipelines running under the Baltic Sea to Europe.

Nord Stream AG, the operator of the network, said three offshore lines of the Nord Stream gas pipeline system have sustained “unprecedented” damage in one day.

It also said that it was impossible to estimate when the gas network system’s working capability would be restored.

The German economy ministry also reported a drop in pressure in the Nord Stream 1 pipeline from Russia to Europe, only hours after a leak was reported in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the Baltic Sea off Denmark.

“We are investigating this incident as well, together with the authorities concerned and the Federal Network Agency,” the ministry said in a statement late Monday.

“We currently do not know the reason for the drop in pressure.”

While the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has never operated, Nord Stream 1 had been carrying gas to Germany until earlier this month, when Russian energy giant Gazprom cut off the supply, claiming there was a need for urgent maintenance work to repair key components. Despite not delivering gas to Europe, both pipelines have still been filled with gas, German news agency dpa reported.

Gazprom’s citing of technical problems as the reason for reducing gas flows through Nord Stream 1 has been rejected by German officials as a cover for a political power play following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Gazprom started cutting supplies through Nord Stream 1 in mid-June, blaming delays to the delivery of a turbine that had been sent to Canada for repair.

The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline was already complete when German chancellor Olaf Scholz suspended its certification on the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, after Russia formally recognised two Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.

Germany has been heavily reliant on natural gas supplies from Russia, but since Moscow launched its war in Ukraine, Berlin has been looking for other sources of energy.

Fears of a winter shortage have eased somewhat as gas storage has progressed in recent weeks. “We do not see any impact on the security of supply,” the economy ministry said, referring to the pressure drop in Nord Stream 1.

“Since the Russian supply stopped at the beginning of September no gas has flowed through Nord Stream 1 any more. Storage levels continue to rise steadily. They are currently at about 91 per cent.”

 (Danish Defence Command)
(Danish Defence Command)

On Tuesday a ceremony is being held for the inauguration of a new pipeline, Baltic Pipe, which will bring Norwegian gas through Denmark to Poland.

The Norwegian gas is intended to have an important role in replacing Russian gas. The Baltic Pipe, a new subsea pipeline delivering Norwegian gas to Poland with an annual capacity of 10 billion cubic metres per day, is due to be inaugurated later on Tuesday.

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