30th Jan 2023

Foul play suspicions in Nord Stream leaks

  • An aerial picture of the gas leak taken from a F-16 fighter jet belonging to the Danish Armed Forces (Photo: Danish Defence)
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Sweden's maritime authority said on Tuesday (27 September) it had detected two leaks on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, shortly after Danish authorities discovered a leak in Nord Stream 2.

Leaks were found both in Swedish waters, and another was spotted south of the Danish island of Bornholm.

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The cause of the leaks is still unclear, but the Danish and Swedish maritime authorities have introduced zones prohibiting ships from sailing into the areas where the leaks are.

In a warning notice, the Danish authorities late on Monday instructed ships to steer clear of the island of Bornholm as the gas leak is "dangerous for marine traffic."

Local maritime agencies, including the German government, are working to find out what caused the leak.

"We are currently in contact with the authorities concerned to clarify the situation," the German economy ministry said in a statement. "We still have no clarity about the causes and the exact facts."

The pipeline's operator, Nord Stream AG, had reported a loss of pressure, which dropped from 105 to seven bars overnight.

It also disclosed a pressure drop in Nord Stream 1, which ran at reduced capacity in the summer before stopping supplies in August.

"The reasons are being investigated," the operator said on its website, but did not give further details.

Although the pipeline, completed in 2021, has never been used, it was filled with 117 million cubic metres of gas to prepare it for immediate delivery once activated.

According to the director of the Danish Energy Agency, Kristoffer Böttzauw, it is still too early to pinpoint the cause of the leaks.

"It could be a shipwreck, which goes directly down on these pipes; it may also be a construction defect; it may be a deliberate act," he said. "But it is, of course, worrying that there are three incidents roughly simultaneously."

But German network regulator president Klaus Mueller said in a tweet that the "repeated pressure drop" in both pipelines "underlines a tense situation."

Foul play suspicions

Although it is still unclear what caused the leaks, German newspaper Tagesspiegel on Tuesday cited security forces who suspect foul play.

"Everything speaks against coincidence," the anonymous source said, but an official explanation may not be forthcoming as divers have to inspect a hard-to-reach leak believed to be at a depth of 60 to 70 metres.

In a radio interview, German Green MP Jürgen Trittin said he assumed an attack happened.

The pipeline is "relatively new and built from solid and good German steel," he said. "There must have been a violent disruption of this pipeline."

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