Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Global Implications

Nord Stream Pipeline Leakage: A climate Catastrophe


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Nord Stream,GHG,Methane Emission

Mains level: Environmental degradation, Man made disasters.

Nord StreamContext

  • Four leakages were reported at different points in the Nord Stream pipelines, linking Russia and Europe, since September 26. Two of the leaks were in Swedish waters while the other two were reported from Danish waters. The European Union said they suspected “sabotage” behind the leaks.

What is Nord Stream Pipeline?

  • Nord Stream 1:
  • Nord Stream 1 is the biggest pipeline transporting natural gas between Russia and Europe via Germany.It is a system of offshore natural gas pipelines running under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany.
  • Nord Stream 1 is a 1,224 km underwater gas pipeline that runs from Vyborg in northwest Russia to Lubmin in northeastern Germany via the Baltic Sea.
  • Nord Stream 2:
  • Russian threats to choke this gas supply to Europe present an economic threat to Germany.
  • To expand options and double the supply from Russia, Germany decided to build Nord Stream 2.
  • The construction of the $11 billion-worth Nord Stream 2 was completed in 2021 but never began commercial operations.

Nord StreamWhy the Nord Stream pipeline is so important?

  • For Germany: Energy prices in Germany, Europe’s largest economy, are among the lowest in the continent because of the cheap gas supplies via Nord Stream 1. This also makes German manufactured goods more competitive in the international market.
  • For European Union: In 2021, Russia supplied nearly 40 per cent of the EU’s natural gas needs through this pipeline. The flows through Nord Stream play a vital role in filling up the national storage tanks of EU. It is crucial to provide the required heating in the upcoming winter.
  • For Russia: Russia is using the supplies via the crucial pipeline as a bargain to navigate its economy through sanctions from the western countries.

What is the current status of Nord Stream Pipeline?

  • Nord stream pipeline is the largest single supply route for Russian gas to Europe. The Russian state owned gas company Gazprom has a majority ownership in the pipeline.
  • While it was running at just 20% of its capacity since the Russia-Ukraine conflict began, the company, in early September fully cut gas flows from the pipeline on the pretext of maintenance.
  • According to Bloomberg, while 40% of Europe’s pipeline gas came from Russia before Russia Ukraine the war, the number now stands at just 9%.
  • Even though both pipelines were not running commercially, they had millions of cubic metres of gas stored in them.

The recent leakage in the pipeline

  • Commercial Methane: Measuring satellite firm GHGSat says, that a conservative estimate based on available data suggested that the leaks together were releasing ‘more than500 metric tonnes of methane per hour’ when first breached, with the flow decreasing over time.
  • Biggest methane leakage ever: According to UNEP The leakage from the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline system under the Baltic Sea have led to perhaps the single biggest release of methane ever recorded.
  • Amount of leakage: The rate of leakage at one of the four points of rupture in the pipeline was 22,920 kg per hour. That is equal to burning about 286,000 kg of coal every hour, according to scientists.

Nord StreamWhat will be the Impact of methane leakage?

  • Possibility of more leakage: With the timeframe for repairs being uncertain, the pipelines were unlikely to provide any gas to Europe in the forthcoming winter months, even if the political will to resume supply was found.
  • Commercial damage: European gas prices spiked after reports of the leaks emerged; European Benchmark prices rose 12% on Tuesday, while Dutch and British Prices continued to rise.
  • Ozone formation: Methane is the primary contributor to the formation of ground-level ozone, a hazardous air pollutant and greenhouse gas, exposure to which causes 1 million premature deaths every year.
  • Green House gas: Methane is also a powerful greenhouse gas. Over a 20-year period, it is 80 times more potent at warming than carbon dioxide.
  • Global warming: Methane has accounted for roughly 30 per cent of global warming since pre-industrial times and is proliferating faster than at any other time since record keeping began in the 1980s.
  • Emission have already increased during the lockdown: According to data from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, even as carbon dioxide emissions decelerated during the pandemic-related lockdowns of 2020, atmospheric methane shot up.

Nord Stream

Why is it important to reduce methane emission?

  • Short lifespan: Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for hundreds to thousands of years. But it takes only about a decade for methane to break down. So, reducing methane emissions now would have an impact in the near term and is critical for helping keep the world on a path to 1.5°C.
  • Human caused methane emissions: Human-caused methane emissions could be reduced by as much as 45 per cent within the decade. This would avert nearly 0.3°C of global warming by 2045, helping to limit global temperature rise to 1.5˚C and putting the planet on track to achieve the Paris Agreement targets.
  • Prevent premature deaths: Every year, the subsequent reduction in ground-level ozone would also prevent 260,000 premature deaths, 775,000 asthma-related hospital visits, 73 billion hours of lost labour from extreme heat and 25 million tonnes of crop losses.
  • Reducing the Agriculture emission: Agriculture and allied activities remains the biggest contributor of methane emission. The UN’s Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture initiative is supporting the transformation of agricultural and food systems, focusing on how to maintain productivity amid a changing climate. Representatives are also working to mainstream agriculture into the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.


  • Nord stream pipeline leakages will further exacerbate the ozone formation, Green House Gas emissions global warming and thereby climate change. In the spirit of Paris climate change agreement nations must act together to rein in the menace of GHG emissions.

Mains Questions

Q.Methane emission into atmosphere is done more by human activities than natural causes. In the spirit of Paris climate change agreement nations must act together to rein in the menace of GHG emissions. Explain


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