Nord Stream’s methane leak is smaller than previously feared

Nord Stream's methane leak is smaller than previously feared

Photo: Pixabay/klassensprecher930

When the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines were shut down in late September, likely as a result of sabotage, large amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, leaked into the Baltic Sea, raising fears of both an environmental disaster and a blow to the climate.

The two damaged pipelines, which link Russia to Germany, sent billowing plumes spreading into the sea from leaking gas in the inactive pipelines, which have been at the center of geopolitical tensions since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Methane is less common in the atmosphere than CO2, but it has been responsible for about 30% of global temperature increase because it is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.

The leaks have largely stopped, and even when they did, only a relatively small amount, about 70,000 tonnes, was released rather than the much higher amounts previously feared, according to experts from the Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission in France.

Even so, the amount of methane leaking into the ocean was equal to 2% of French carbon dioxide emissions, or all of Paris’ emissions in a year, noted Philippe Ciais, a researcher at the Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Sciences, who led the research.

“This is not good news, but not a climate bomb,” said Ciais, whose team estimated the size of the leak using readings from stations in Icos, a European network that monitors atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.

The leak may have been smaller than previously estimated because there may have been less gas in the pipes than after Russia sharply cut its gas exports to Europe in retaliation for European economic sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine. A lot of gas may also have dissolved in the seawater before it could escape into the atmosphere, the expert said.

He added that based on atmospheric readings, emissions peaked on September 27 before beginning to decline with a minor increase on October 1.

“All four leaks were outside the Danish island of Bornholm, two located in nearby Sweden’s exclusive economic zone, and the other two in the Danish one,” reports the Agence France-Presse news agency.

“The Swedish coast guard on Monday [October 3] said it could no longer observe gas coming from the leak on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, but bubbles from a smaller leak could still be seen above Nord Stream 2 on Monday afternoon.”

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Source: Shelf life


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