Both Nord Stream gas pipelines were apparently sabotaged, making it one of the worst industrial methane accidents in history, scientists said. While the sabotage has massive environmental impacts, it falls short of being a major climate disaster.
Methane is a greenhouse gas up to 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. The gas is now escaping into the atmosphere from three boiling patches on the surface of the Baltic Sea.
The largest boiling patch stretches a kilometer across.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen condemned the “sabotage” and “deliberate disruption of active European energy infrastructure.”
It remains unclear just how much methane was in the pipelines. The pipelines are owned by Nord Stream AG and the gas comes from Gazprom, meaning European officials cannot tell clearly how much methane was inside.
It is being assumed there was a very large amount of gas in those pipelines.
Estimates of the total gas in the pipelines that are leaking range from 150 million cubic meters to 500 million cubic meters.
Officials estimate the leaks would equate to about 14 million tons of CO2. This amounts to about 32 percent of the annual emissions from all of Denmark.
Germany’s Federal Environment Agency estimated the leaks will lead to emissions of around 7.5 million tons of CO2 equivalent — about 1 percent of Germany’s annual emissions.
The largest leak ever recorded in the U.S. was the 2015 Aliso Canyon leak of roughly 90,000 tons of methane over months.
The estimates of what may have been released this week into the Baltic is more than double that.
It makes this week’s disaster “unprecedented,” said David McCabe, a senior scientist with the Clean Air Task Force.
Experts and scientists said the leak was very disturbing and a real travesty. They have called it an environmental crime if it was indeed deliberate sabotage, as expected.