Nord Stream gas leaks sees methane spew into the atmosphere

Climate scientists described the stunning photos of gas spewing to the floor of the Baltic Sea as a “reckless release” of greenhouse gas emissions that, if deliberate, “amounts to an environmental crime.”

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Unexplained gas leaks alongside two underwater pipelines connecting Russia to Germany have despatched big volumes of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.

Climate scientists described the stunning photos of gas spewing to the floor of the Baltic Sea this week as a “reckless release” of greenhouse gas emissions that, if deliberate, “amounts to an environmental crime.”

Seismologists on Monday reported explosions in the neighborhood of the uncommon Nord Stream gas leaks, that are located in worldwide waters however inside Denmark’s and Sweden’s unique financial zones.

Denmark’s armed forces stated video footage confirmed the largest gas leak created a floor disturbance of roughly 1 kilometer (0.62 miles) in diameter, whereas the smallest leak brought about a circle of roughly 200 meters.

Climate scientists acknowledge that it’s arduous to precisely quantify the precise dimension of the emissions and say the leaks are a “wee bubble in the ocean” in comparison with the huge quantities of methane emitted round the world daily.

Nonetheless, environmental campaigners argue that the incident exhibits the danger of sabotage or an accident makes fossil infrastructure a “ticking time bomb.”

How unhealthy is it?

Researchers at the German Environment Agency (UBA) estimate the local weather influence of the leaks to be equal to roughly 7.5 million metric tons of carbon.

The company stated a complete of 300,000 tons of methane are anticipated to be launched into the atmosphere from the leaks. Methane is considerably extra dangerous to the local weather than carbon, UBA researchers stated, noting that over a 100-year interval one ton of methane causes as a lot warming to the atmosphere as 25 tons of carbon.

BORNHOLM, DENMARK – SEPTEMBER 27: Danish Defense exhibits the gas leaking at Nord Stream 2 seen from the Danish F-16 interceptor on Bornholm, Denmark on September 27, 2022.

Danish Defence/ | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

For context, the International Energy Agency estimates that annual international methane emissions are round 570 million tons.

This means the estimated emissions from the Nord Stream gas leaks are only a fraction of the international complete every year, even whereas campaigners argue the incident serves as one other reminder of the dangers related to fossil gas infrastructure.

Paul Balcombe, honorary lecturer in chemical engineering at Imperial College London, stated that even when solely certainly one of the two leaking Nord Stream pipes have been to launch all its contents, it will seemingly be twice as a lot methane as the 2015 Aliso Canyon leak in California, the largest identified launch of methane in U.S. historical past.

Methane is 84 occasions stronger than carbon and does not final as lengthy in the atmosphere earlier than it breaks down. This makes it a vital goal for combatting local weather change rapidly whereas concurrently minimizing different greenhouse gas emissions.

The huge roiling water because of the leak as we have now seen in imagery is symbolic of the monumental quantity of fossil gas that the world is combusting.

Jeffrey Kargel

Senior scientist at Planetary Research Institute

The reason behind the Nord Stream gas leaks will not be but identified. Many in Europe suspect sabotage, notably as the incident comes amid a bitter vitality standoff between Brussels and Moscow. Russia has dismissed claims that it was behind the suspected assault as “stupid.”

Denmark’s Energy Agency stated Wednesday that emissions from the gas leaks correspond to roughly one-third of the nation’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Based on the Danish authorities’s preliminary estimates, the worst-case situation would see 778 million commonplace cubic meters of gas or 14.6 million metric tons of carbon equal emissions. Comparatively, Danish emissions in 2020 have been roughly 45 million tons of carbon equal.

Grant Allen, professor of atmospheric physics at the University of Manchester, stated it has been estimated that there could also be as much as 177 million cubic meters of gas nonetheless residual in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline alone.

Allen stated this quantity is equal to the gas utilized by 124,000 U.Okay. properties in a 12 months. “This is not a small amount of gas, and represents a reckless emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere,” he added.

ICIS: Nord Stream gas leaks and Gazprom sanction warning 'much more than a coincidence'

Jeffrey Kargel, senior scientist at Planetary Research Institute in Tucson, Arizona, described the gas leaks at the Nord Stream pipelines as a “real travesty” and “an environmental crime if it was deliberate.”

“The massive roiling water due to the leak as we have seen in imagery is symbolic of the enormous amount of fossil fuel that the world is combusting,” Kargel stated.

“The global climate is changing drastically, with huge impacts on extreme climate mounting every year, decade after decade. It is such an extreme climate change that just about every adult age person on Earth knows it from first-hand experience,” he added. “We can literally feel it on our skin.”

Europe should go ‘full tilt’ for renewable vitality

Neither pipeline was pumping gas at the time of the leaks however each strains have been nonetheless pressurized: Nord Stream 1 stopped pumping gas to Europe “indefinitely” earlier this month, with Moscow’s operator saying worldwide sanctions on Russia prevented it from finishing up important upkeep work.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, in the meantime, by no means formally opened as Germany refused to certify it for industrial operations because of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Dave Reay, govt director of the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute, stated “the most direct effect of these gas leaks on climate is the extra dollop of the powerful greenhouse gas methane – the main component of natural gas – they are adding to the atmosphere.”

“That said, this is a wee bubble in the ocean compared to the huge amounts of so-called ‘fugitive methane’ that are emitted every day around the world due to things like fracking, coal mining and oil extraction,” he added.

Environmental campaigners argue the danger of sabotage or an accident makes fossil infrastructure a “ticking time bomb.”

Lisi Niesner | Reuters

“Risks of sabotage or accident make fossil fuel infrastructure a ticking time bomb, but even on a good day oil and gas pipes and storage leak methane constantly,” Silvia Pastorelli, EU local weather and vitality campaigner at environmental group Greenpeace, informed CNBC by way of e-mail.

“Behind all these numbers of cubic metres and megatonnes are real dangers for real people, this potent greenhouse gas is accelerating the climate crisis leading to worse heatwaves like Europe had this summer or more devastating like storms the one battering Florida now,” Pastorelli stated.

“Gas pipes from Norway or Algeria won’t get us out of this mess, Europe must instead go full tilt for renewable energy and real energy savings that protect vulnerable people.”


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