The enigmatic sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines

The enigmatic sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines

In this case, there is the certain: two underwater explosions, “most likely due to detonations”, according to Swedish seismographs, damaged the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines. The first occurred on the night of Sunday September 25 to Monday September 26, southeast of the Danish island of Bornholm, in the Baltic Sea. The second took place on Monday evening in the northeast of the island. The damage generated, significant, caused impressive bubbling due to the methane present in the conduits, but which no longer circulated because of the sanctions linked to the war in Ukraine.

And then there are the assumptions. Nobody dares talk about an accident anymore. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen talks about“deliberate acts”. “Probably sabotage”, added his Swedish counterpart, Magdalena Andersson. But fomented by whom? A priori, only a state body had the technical means for such an attack.

The Russian track is very serious, but without proof. At first glance, it seems surprising that the Kremlin could undermine its own infrastructure which brings in billions in export revenue. Moscow said to itself “extremely concerned” by the damage caused, calling for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.

Russia appoints Joe Biden as responsible

But while the operator of the network, the gas giant Gazprom, has not been supplying anything since the beginning of September, such an act could be a way of getting rid of the burden of compensation (estimated at several billion euros) so as not to have delivered the volumes negotiated with the Uniper group.

Gazprom mentioned the halt in deliveries due to a malfunction of an essential turbine, a reason that can hardly pass for a “force majeure” before the courts, justifying a long stop. For its part, Russia denies accusations “predictably stupid”.

Moscow is working to appoint other officials. On the Internet, many Russian “trolls” had a good time repeating Joe Biden’s statement on February 7 (before the war): “If Russia invades Ukraine (…) then there will be no more Nord Stream 2, we will end it. » The American president, however, never specified how he intended to go about putting an end to the gas pipeline under German control. Ordinarily, diplomatic pressure prevails between the two countries. Berlin also suspended the commissioning of Nord Stream 2 just after the invasion of Ukraine. And Washington has never spoken of going after Nord Stream 1, damaged by the explosion.

The safety of installations, a taboo subject

The European Union issued a warning on Wednesday, September 28, through the voice of its head of diplomacy, Josep Borrell: “Any deliberate disruption of Europe’s energy infrastructure is totally unacceptable and will be met with a strong and united response. » As a result, Denmark has raised its level of vigilance in the Baltic. What about France? In France, all the pipelines are buried, therefore more difficult to access. For the time being, no gas installation has been the target of attack, apart from the destruction of Enedis vehicles, by far-left militants.

The question of safety remains largely taboo concerning the 32,000 km of GRTgaz pipelines and the 200,000 km of pipes to supply 11 million customers at GRDF. «It’s kept under radar, and no one wants to talk about it, because it would very quickly show the fragility of the systems, “ confides a former leader of the sector.

The situation is more problematic on the electricity network. “With transformers and key substations, there are several hundred hotspots in the territory. They are monitored by cameras and protected by electric fences, but it is not sure that this is enough in the face of military-style commando operations”, points out an expert. Cutting two or three power points could thus be enough to put Paris and other European metropolises in the dark.


Nord Stream 1 key figures

Nord Stream 1 is the most important of the seven gas pipelines that connect Russia to Europe, with a transport capacity of 55 billion m3 of gas over 1,200 km in length.

Inaugurated in 2012, it consists of two pipelines 1.2 m in diameter and 3.8 cm thick, which cross the Baltic Sea to arrive in Germany.

It cost 9 billion euros, divided between its shareholders: the Russian Gazprom (51%), the Germans BASF and E.ON (15.5% each), the Dutch Gasunie (9%) and the French Engie (9%).

Russia built the same facility, next door, with the same capacity. But the commissioning of Nord Stream 2 was suspended in February, at the initiative of Westerners.


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