European countries on Tuesday raced to investigate unexplained leaks in two Russian gas pipeline running under the Baltic Sea near Sweden and Denmark, the infrastructure at the heart of an energy crisis since Russia invaded Ukraine.
Experts and even Russia, which built the network, say the possibility of sabotage cannot be ruled out.
The Swedish Maritime Authority has issued a warning about two leaks in the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, shortly after a leak in the nearby Nord Stream 2 pipeline was discovered prompting Denmark to restrict shipping within the country. radius of 5 nautical miles.
Both pipelines are at the center of an escalating energy war between European capitals and Moscow, which has rattled major Western economies, sent gas prices skyrocketing and triggered a crisis. hunt for alternative energy supplies.
A European security source said: “There are some indications that it was intentional damage, while it is still too early to draw conclusions. “You have to ask: Who will profit?”
Russia also said the Russian cyber leak was cause for concern and sabotage as one of the possible causes. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “No options can be ruled out right now.
Neither pipeline was pumping gas to Europe at the time the leak was discovered, amid the dispute over the war in Ukraine, but the incidents would undermine any remaining expectations that Europe could can receive gas via Nord Stream 1 before winter.
Network operator Nord Stream AG said: “The simultaneous destruction of three offshore gas lines of the Nord Stream system on the same day is unprecedented. “It is not yet possible to estimate the time to restore gas transport infrastructure.”
Although both pipes are inoperative, both pipes still contain gas under pressure.
Danish Energy Minister Dan Jorgensen said in a written comment that gas leaks were detected in Nord Stream 2 between Russia and Denmark on Monday.
Gazprom, the Kremlin-controlled company with a monopoly on Russian gas exports by pipeline, declined to comment.
Russia cut off gas supplies to Europe through Nord Stream 1 before completely suspending the flow in August, blaming Western sanctions for the technical difficulty. European politicians say that is a reason to stop supplying gas.
The new Nord Stream 2 pipeline has not yet entered commercial operation. Plans to use it for gas supplies were scrapped by Germany days before Russia sent troops into Ukraine in February.
Jakub Godzimirski, a research professor at the Norwegian Diplomatic Academy specializing in Russia’s energy policy, said the leak was likely a technical problem but suggested that sabotage was likely.
The leak comes just before Tuesday’s launch of the Baltic Pipeline carrying gas from Norway to Poland, a focus of Warsaw’s efforts to diversify supplies from Russia.
The Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) urged oil and gas companies on Monday to be vigilant about unidentified drones flying near oil and gas rigs off the coast of Norway, warning of potential threats. possible attack.
A spokesperson for the Swedish Maritime Administration (SMA) said there had been two leaks on Nord Stream 1, one in the Swedish economic zone and the other in the Danish zone, adding that both leaks are located in the northeastern part of the Danish island of Bornholm.
A second SMA spokesman said: “We are monitoring further to make sure no ships get too close to the site.
Ships could lose buoyancy if they entered the area and there could be a risk of gas leaks catching fire on the water and in the air, the Danish energy agency said. The time added that there was no security risk associated with the leak outside the exclusion zone.
The leak will only affect the local environment, meaning only the area where the gas pipes are located in the water column will be affected, adding that the release of greenhouse gas methane will have an impact. bad for the climate.
Danish authorities have asked Denmark to increase readiness for the electricity and gas sectors after a leak, a step that requires higher safety procedures for electrical installations and facilities. .
The head of the Danish energy authority, Kristoffer Bottzauw, said: “Gas pipeline breaches are extremely rare… We want to ensure thorough monitoring of Denmark’s critical infrastructure to ensure enhance future supply security.”