A gas leak in Russian pipelines to Europe has sparked fears of sabotage

  • Polish Prime Minister accuses vandalism without evidence
  • Russia says the leaks threaten Europe’s energy security
  • Footage shows bubbles of gas burning on the ocean surface
  • The operator says the damage to Nord Stream 1 is ‘unprecedented’
  • The crisis over Russian gas has pushed up prices

STOCKHOLM/COPENHAGEN, Sept 27 (Reuters) – Europe is investigating leaks at two Russian gas pipelines that bubbled in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday.

But it is unclear who will be behind any foul play if it is proven that Russia, along with its European partners, built billions of dollars on the Nord Stream pipelines.

Poland’s prime minister accused him of sabotage, which the Danish prime minister said could not be ruled out, without citing evidence.

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Russia, which cut gas supplies to Europe after the West imposed sanctions, said sabotage was possible and that the incident undermined the continent’s energy security. A senior Ukrainian official, without giving evidence, said the Russian attack would destabilize Europe.

Nord Stream pipelines have been flashpoints in the escalating energy war between European capitals and Moscow, which has hit major Western economies, driven up gas prices and fueled a hunt for alternative energy supplies. read more

Sweden’s Maritime Authority issued a warning about two leaks in the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, a day after a leak was discovered in the nearby Nord Stream 2 pipeline, prompting Denmark to restrict shipping and impose a small no-fly zone.

Denmark’s armed forces released a video showing the bubbles boiling up to the ocean’s surface. The largest gas leak caused a surface disturbance 1 km (0.6 mi) in diameter, the military said.

“Today we encountered sabotage, we don’t know all the details of what happened, but we clearly see that this is an act of sabotage related to the next step in the escalation of the situation in Ukraine,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz said. Morawiecki said at the inauguration of a new pipeline between Norway and Poland.

European leaders and Moscow say they cannot rule out sabotage. Map of Nord Stream pipelines and locations where leaks are reported

‘Explosion Hazard’

The leaks are huge and it could take up to a week to stop the gas from the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, said Kristopher Potsau, head of Denmark’s Energy Agency.

Ships will lose buoyancy if they enter that area.

“The sea surface is rich in methane, which means there is an increased risk of explosions in the area,” Botchau said.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said sabotage could not be ruled out. “We’re talking about three spills with some distance between them, so it’s hard to imagine it’s a coincidence,” he said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was “very concerning news. In fact, we are talking about some damage of a vague nature to a pipeline in Denmark’s economic zone.” He said this affected the energy security of the continent. read more

No pipeline was delivering gas to Europe at the time the leaks were discovered amid controversy over the war in Ukraine, but the incidents could dash any remaining hopes that Europe could receive gas via Nord Stream 1 before winter.

Operator Nord Stream said the damage was “unprecedented”.

Both pipelines were defunct but gas was available.

Gazprom (GAZP.MM)The Kremlin-controlled company, which has a monopoly on Russian gas exports via pipeline, declined to comment.

“There are some indications that this was deliberate damage,” a European defense source said, adding that it was still too early to draw conclusions. “You have to ask: Who benefits?”

Cutting materials

Russia cut gas supplies to Europe via Nord Stream 1 before shutting down flows altogether in August, blaming Western sanctions for causing technical problems. European politicians say this is an excuse to cut off gas supplies.

The new Nord Stream 2 pipeline has not yet entered commercial operations. Germany scrapped plans to use it for gas supplies days before Russia sent troops into Ukraine in February.

“Regardless of political developments in the Ukraine war, there are so many undersea leaks that by the coming winter, neither pipeline will supply gas to the EU,” the Eurasia Group wrote.

European gas prices rose on the news. Benchmark October Dutch prices rose nearly 10% on Tuesday. Prices are still below this year’s stratospheric highs, but 200% higher than at the start of September 2021.

The leak occurred before Tuesday’s ceremonial launch of the Baltic pipeline, which will carry gas from Norway to Poland. The centerpiece of Warsaw’s efforts to diversify away from Russian supplies is crossing the Nord Stream infrastructure.

Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) on Monday urged oil companies to be vigilant about unidentified drones flying near Norway’s offshore oil and gas platforms. read more

The Swedish Maritime Administration (SMA) said there were two spills in Nord Stream 1 – one in the Swedish economic zone and the other in the Danish zone – northeast of the Danish island of Bornholm.

“We are on extra watch to ensure that no ship comes too close to the site,” an SMA spokesperson said.

Danish authorities have asked Denmark’s electricity and gas sector to raise the level of preparedness after the spills, a step that requires higher safety procedures for electrical installations and facilities.

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Report by Reuters Bureaus; Written by Mathias Williams; Edited by Edmund Blair and John Harvey

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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