Nord Stream Has Released Annual Emissions of Two Million Gas Cars: Expert

Major leaks in two Russian gas pipelines are having the same impact on climate change as emissions from two million gas cars, an expert has said.

The two leaking pipelines—known as Nord Stream 1, and Nord Stream 2—run under the Baltic Sea, close to Sweden and Denmark.

The leaks were detected by Sweden's Maritime Authority and the Danish Energy Agency, shortly after bubbles were seen developing at the surface of the ocean, above the pipelines.

Officials believe this indicates explosions took place, suggesting sabotage, but this has not been confirmed.

Nord Stream Gas Line
In this combination image, a large disturbance in the sea can be observed off the coast of the Danish island of Bornholm Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022 following a series of unusual leaks on two natural gas pipelines running from Russia under the Baltic Sea to Germany an a stock image of a car exhaust pipe AP/Getty

The pipelines were not in operation at the time of the leak. But they both contain harmful natural gasses. These mostly contain methane—one of the largest contributors to climate change.

Experts have raised concerns of the sheer volume of greenhouse gasses being released into the ocean.

Andrew Baxter, oil and gas methane emissions expert, and director at the Environmental Defense Fund, said in a tweet: "How much methane will be vented to atmosphere from the Nordstream 2 pipeline incident? Some rough back-of-the-envelope calculations incoming... but spoiler alert... It's a probably a S**T load."

Baxter estimated that 121 million kg of natural gases will end up in the atmosphere due to these leaks.

"Let's assume 95 percent methane content...115,000 tons of methane," Baxter said. "That's 9.6 million tons of CO2 equivalent. The same climate impact as the annual emissions of two million gasoline cars or 2.5 coal power stations."

Methane is 25 times more powerful at trapping heat in the atmosphere when compared with carbon dioxide. While it remains in the atmosphere for a much shorter time than carbon dioxide, it has a huge impact on the rate of climate change.

Baxter is not the only expert taking to social media to raise concerns.

Climate economist Gernot Wagner said in a tweet: "You know how a smallish gas leak can take out an entire city block? Multiply that by a Nord Stream 2-sized leak, and you get a 5 nautical miles wide no-go zone in the Baltic Sea. The gas is worth ~€200 million, and causing more in climate damages."

Climate scientist Zeke Hausfather also said in a tweet: "Today's sabotage of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines resulted in a substantial release of methane to the atmosphere.

"Initial estimates suggest ~115,000 tons CH4 from Nord Stream 2, amounting to ~3.2 million tons CO2-eq (GWP100). Possibly double this when accounting for NS1."

Environmental organization Greenpeace released data estimating that the amount of gas seeping from the pipelines will be the equivalent of eight months' worth of the emissions produced in Denmark a year.

Grant Allen, of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Manchester, told New Scientist that he believes the leaks are "so big" that they are releasing "a column of bubbles" that are so intense, "nature isn't going to have a chance to to act on it," he says.

The two pipelines have been at the heart of an escalating energy crisis between Russia and Europe, since the Ukraine invasion.

When the invasion began, many Western nations sanctioned Russian oil, which has lead to high gas prices and economic uncertainty.