- Polish Prime Minister: Leaks Caused by Sabotage
- Operator says damage to Nord Stream 1 ‘unprecedented’
- Crisis over Russian gas has pushed prices up
- Europe races to find alternative supplies
STOCKHOLM/COPENHAGEN, Sept. 27 (Reuters) – Europe rushed Tuesday to investigate possible sabotage behind sudden and unexplained leaks in two Russian gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea, infrastructure that has been at the heart of an energy crisis since Russia invaded Ukraine.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the leaks were caused by sabotage, while the Prime Minister of Denmark and Russia, which cut its gas supplies to Europe following Western sanctions, said it could not be ruled out. But who could be behind foul play, if proven, and a motive were far from clear.
The Swedish Maritime Authority warned of two leaks in the Nord Stream 1 pipeline the day after a leak in the nearby Nord Stream 2 pipeline was discovered, forcing Denmark to restrict shipping and impose a small no-fly zone.
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Both pipelines have been flashpoints in an escalating energy war between European capitals and Moscow that has ravaged major Western economies, soared gas prices and fueled the hunt for alternative energy supplies. read more
“Today we have faced an act of sabotage, we do not know all the details of what happened, but we clearly see that it is an act of sabotage related to the next step of escalating the situation in Ukraine,” said Mateusz Morawiecki during a press conference. the opening of a new pipeline between Norway and Poland.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said that sabotage cannot be ruled out. “We’re talking about three leaks with some distance between them, so it’s hard to imagine it’s a coincidence,” she said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the leaks are eroding the energy security of the entire continent. read more
Neither pipeline was pumping gas to Europe at the time the leaks were found during the Ukraine war dispute, but the incidents will negate any remaining expectation that Europe could receive gas via Nord Stream 1 before the winter.
“The destruction that happened simultaneously on three strings of the offshore gas pipelines of the Nord Stream system on the same day is unprecedented,” said network operator Nord Stream AG.
Although neither was in operation, both pipelines still contained pressurized gas.
Gazprom (GAZP.MM), the Kremlin-controlled company with a monopoly on Russian pipeline gas exports, declined to comment.
“There are indications that the damage was intentional,” said a European security source, adding that it was too early to draw any conclusions. “You have to ask yourself: who would benefit?”
A second European source, when asked if there was any specific information pointing to sabotage, said: “Not specific yet, but it seems that this pressure loss can only occur if a pipe has been completely severed. That really says it all.”
Russia cut off gas supplies to Europe via Nord Stream 1 before completely suspending gas supplies in August, accusing Western sanctions of causing technical problems. According to European politicians, this was a pretext to stop the gas supply.
The new Nord Stream 2 pipeline had yet to be deployed commercially. The plan to use it to supply gas was scrapped by Germany days before Russia sent troops to Ukraine in February.
A note from the Eurasia Group said unplanned leaks to submarine pipelines were rare.
“The multiple undersea leaks mean that neither pipeline will supply gas to the EU next winter, regardless of political developments in the war in Ukraine,” it said. “Depending on the extent of the damage, the leaks could even mean a permanent closure of both lines.”
FAULT OR SABOTAGE?
European gas prices rose on the news of the leaks, with the Dutch October benchmark price rising nearly 10% on Tuesday. Prices are still below this year’s stratospheric peaks, but remain more than 200% higher than early September 2021.
“(Or) concern is the safety aspect of pipelines across the EU, as this appears to be sabotage… and will only exacerbate supply concerns for the coming winter,” said Refinitiv analyst Timothy Crump.
The leaks happened just before the ceremonial launch on Tuesday of the Baltic pipe carrying gas from Norway to Poland, a key part of Warsaw’s efforts to diversify Russian supplies.
The Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) also urged oil companies on Monday to be vigilant for unidentified drones seen near Norwegian offshore oil and gas platforms, and warned of possible attacks. read more
A spokesman for the Swedish Maritime Administration (SMA) said there were two leaks on Nord Stream 1, one in the Swedish economic zone and another in the Danish zone, adding that both are located in an area northeast of the Danish island of Bornholm. found.
“We are monitoring extra to ensure that no vessel gets too close to the site,” said a second SMA spokesperson.
Ships could lose buoyancy as they enter the area, and there could be a risk of leaked gas igniting above the water and in the air, the Danish energy agency said, adding that there were no risks associated with the leak outside the exclusion zone. .
The leak would only affect the environment in the area where the gas plume in the water column is located, it said, adding that escaping greenhouse gas methane would have a harmful impact on the climate.
The Danish authorities have asked for the level of preparedness in the Danish electricity and gas sector to be increased following the leaks, a step that would require stricter safety procedures for electricity installations and facilities.
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Reporting by Reuters agencies; Written by Matthias Williams; Editing by Edmund Blair and Jan Harvey
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