Experts are increasingly convinced that the leaks in the Baltic gas pipelines Nord Stream 1 and 2 were deliberately installed. Does that mean sabotage, or are there other means? And how do we start repairing pipelines across the ocean floor?
The Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines were built to transport gas between Germany and Russia. However, due to the war in Ukraine, the project has become the focus of a power game between Russia and Europe. Then a new problem arose. There were 3 leaks in the pipe, 1 in node stream 2 and 2 in node stream 1. What exactly happened remains a mystery for now. But there is growing evidence that it was sabotage. Independent Pipeline His engineer Filip Van den Abeele reviews and considers options on Radio 1’s “The world today”.
1. How do you detect pipeline leaks?
Together Nordstream 1 and 2 form a huge project. In total, over 1,000 kilometers of pipelines pass through the Baltic Sea. How can you quickly spot that there is a leak somewhere? “The alarm bells rang when the pressure in Nord Stream 2 suddenly started dropping,” says Van den Abeele. “Then you know you’re losing somewhere. Then the same thing happened with the Nord Stream 1.”
But how do you know exactly where the leak is in such a long pipeline? explains. “They were also visible on the ship’s radar. The Danish defenders also shared images showing large specks on the surface of the water, so the damage must have been significant.”
2. Is there sabotage?
There seems to be growing evidence that someone deliberately damaged the pipeline. Seismologists say the explosion has been observed by monitoring stations around the leak. “It’s also strange that both pipes were damaged at the same time,” said Van den Abeele. “They are usually made to last for years without problems.”
At the same time, however, Van den Abeele reserves the possibility of sabotage. For example, on the practical side. “You need to be in the best possible physical condition to go unnoticed,” warns Van den Abeele. “Camera surveillance is provided where the pipeline is in shallow water, so sabotage is not easy.”
Additionally, Van den Abeele wonders who is behind this. “The Russians themselves seem unlikely to me,” he says. “They have $10 billion invested in their pipeline and can turn the tap off if they want to.”
3. Are there any alternatives?
Are there other possible explanations for the leaks in Nord Streams 1 and 2? there is,” explains Van den Abeele. “Fishermen damage pipelines with ship anchors more frequently, so I’m not going to wipe the point off the table entirely just yet.”
4. Were pipelines used?
Both Nord Stream 1 and 2 were out of service at this time due to the war in Ukraine. Nord Stream 1 closed her at the end of August. Nord Stream 2 was never even used due to what happened in Ukraine.
So why was there gas in the pipe? “It’s for purely practical reasons,” emphasizes Van den Abeele. “Because the pipeline is submerged, the sea water exerts a lot of pressure on the outside. In order to prevent this, the pipeline is currently being operated as a pressure vessel.
5. How long does it take to fix a leak like this?
Operator Nord Stream 2 AG itself speaks of “unprecedented damage” to the pipeline. Does that mean the pipeline will be closed for months? “The advantage is that the water at the damage site isn’t too deep,” explains Van den Abeele. “That means we can send divers there, which eases the technical challenge.”
According to Van den Abeele, the challenge will become more political. There are already discussions between Russia and Germany about maintaining the pipeline because of the war in Ukraine. “In any case, it will take weeks or months to fix the leak, as the entire part may have to be replaced,” he concludes Van den Abeele.