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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Three mysterious gas pipeline leaks from Russia: What is its effect on supplies? sabotage? Does this make the EU more cautious?

The European Union has woken up to a new energy shock, once again from Russia. At least, this country is the origin of two gas pipelines – Nordstream 1 and Nordstream 2 – which currently have registered up to three leaks affecting Denmark and Sweden.

Waiting to clarify what happened, the Danish prime minister, Mette Fredriksson, does not rule out that it was due to “sabotage”, something that even the Kremlin thinks. Meanwhile, Brussels is debating limiting the price of gas that the EU buys from Russia, an issue that is almost out of context now, as what happened in the Baltic Sea does not affect supplies at the moment: Nordstream 1 has been put on hold for weeks and Nordstream 2 is still not authorized to operate.

What happened?

Authorities in Sweden and Denmark have detected three leaks in two gas pipelines originating from Russia in the Baltic Sea. Notably, there are two leaks on NordStream 1 and another on NordStream 2. Both are in Germany.

The leaks are located north-east of the Danish island of Bornholm and were detected from 105 bar in a few hours and up to only 7 in the night after Germany verified a sudden and mysterious drop in pressure in Nord Stream 2.

sabotage?

Skepticism is inevitable as the Danish authorities have already spoken out loud about it. To begin with, because the reason for what happened is still unknown and, on the other hand, because of Russia’s background in the energy war against the European Union which accompanies the classic war in Ukraine, in which it has retaliated with alleged breakdowns and cuts . Gas flow more or less reasonable and for a prescribed or indefinite period. In this case, one of the reasons why these leaks were not accidental is that they happened two days before the opening of the Baltic Gas Pipeline –baltic pipe-, which will carry natural gas from Norway to Denmark and Poland and is said to reduce these countries’ dependence on Russian gas.

Finally, this infrastructure from Norway to Eastern and Central Europe has been inaugurated this Tuesday via the Polish port of Goleniov. The EU has financed it with $267 million and the Commission hopes “it will play an important role in mitigating the energy crisis”.

“You can’t deny” sabotage, Denmark’s prime minister has said about the incident. Despite the fact that all eyes will be on Moscow in that matter, neither the Kremlin this Tuesday denied that these “unexplained leaks” in its gas pipelines could have been caused by sabotage.

For its part, the European Commission has chosen to maintain discretion this Tuesday and has not joined public skepticism until information is available. “This is not the time to speculate on possible causes and coincidences,” energy spokesman Tim McPhee told Brussels. The commission is in contact with the affected countries – which are Denmark and Sweden as well as Germany and Finland – to find out what happened. McPhee stood firm in this message during the commission’s daily press conference, despite the fact that Frederickson had already spoken of a possible conscious act.

“We will not speculate on whether it is sabotage, we do not have the elements to determine the cause of the fig”, he insisted, although he added that if it is confirmed that “any infrastructure Any act of sabotage is something that we condemn. In order to react more we need to know the facts when they are determined.

threat to the region

In addition to the political consequences that sabotage can lead to leaks, gas leaks in the Baltic Sea are a clear environmental risk. The Nordstream 2 pipeline currently holds 177 million cubic meters of gas, which Danish officials fear could end up at sea in the coming days.

To avoid a natural disaster, Denmark has established a no-navigation zone around the five-nautical-mile leak, and other affected countries have done the same. The reason is that “it is hazardous to maritime traffic”, issued in a statement by the Danish Energy Agency, which also maintained that “there is no risk associated with leakage outside the exclusion zone”.

Are supplies to the EU disrupted?

The short answer is no. It has long been that the energy conflict with Russia is so bitter that damage to the EU’s two main infrastructures to transport its gas does not affect supplies as there is no one through those two routes.

Nordstream 1 and 2 were both halted prior to the incident. In early September, Moscow again suspended flow on Nordstream 1 “for technical reasons”, he said, although political reasons reappeared there. It was only after the G7 meeting agreed to limit the price of oil coming from Moscow and the European Commission put on the table to do the same with gas. It had already done so, due to a rupture that took an exceptionally long time to repair, but on occasion the gas cut was indefinitely which still operates, so that today causes no flow to be suspended. No, two leaks were detected in the Baltic. The same is true of NordStream 2, a new infrastructure that is not even operational because Germany decided to suspend its use in response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

“The European Commission has been notified of three leaks, two on Nordstream 1 and one on Nordstream 1 and we are following this very closely with the affected member states. There is currently no impact on the security of supply as Nordstream 1 Delivery has been put off for weeks and Nordstream 2 is not authorized [para operar]”, said the commission’s energy spokesman.

Debate to punish Russian gas

Whether it is an accident or an intentional rupture, the truth is that there will be no change in the flow of gas from Russia to Europe at the moment, simply because there are none of those routes at the moment. With this paradox in mind, the EU is currently working to limit the price of imported gas in an effort to reduce electricity bills.

The debate is currently amidst the Commission’s intention that this price limit affects only Russian gas, as a new “acceptance” for Moscow. A good portion of the EU’s twenty-seven governments demand that limits be established for all imported gas, regardless of where it comes from.

In early September, the energy commissioner, Kadris Simson, defended limiting the Russian gas price only, which some member states fear would permanently suspend Moscow, with a very eloquent phrase. : “No one guarantees us that Russia will keep the tap open no matter what we do”.

This issue will be one of those on the table of energy ministers who will meet again this Friday in Brussels. Previously, 13 member states, including Spain, would have signed a letter urging the commission to limit the price of all gas, not just Russian. This Tuesday, Eric Mammer, spokesman for the Community Executive, ignored the document. “We have information that there is a letter but we have not received it,” he said.

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