Nord Stream pipeline blowouts highlight fossil fuel vulnerability
Oil and gas infrastructure has been repeatedly targeted in conflicts, making decentralized renewables such as solar panels more resilient
Suspicious ruptures of two major gas pipelines linking Russia and Europe have highlighted the vulnerability of fossil fuel infrastructure during conflict.
On Tuesday, the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines began leaking from three different locations around the same time in waters near Denmark.
The leaks resulted in a significant release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere. Climatologist Zeke Hausfather said that while some of the methane could have been adsorbed by the oceans, “a large majority of it probably escaped” into the atmosphere.
“There are three leaks so it’s hard to imagine that it could be accidental,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said. “These are deliberate actions, not an accident,” she added.
EU said the incidents were caused by sabotage, but stopped short of blaming Russia directly. The Kremlin has denied accusations that it deliberately damaged its own pipelines.
The incident was widely interpreted as a Russian warning of its ability and willingness to target European oil and gas infrastructure.
The leaks occurred on the same day that a new gas pipeline between gas producer Norway and Poland entered service.
On Monday, the Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority said several oil and gas companies had complained about unknown drones flying near their offshore facilities.
“The events surrounding the Nord Stream 1 & 2 gas pipelines clearly show how vulnerable and threatened our critical infrastructure is,” the German military said. tweeted.
Benjamin Pohl, head of climate diplomacy and security at think tank Adelphi, told Climate Home News that all energy systems are vulnerable to threats such as cyberattacks.
But, he said, systems that depend on fossil fuels face the “additional vulnerability of physically transporting large amounts of stuff.”
Wim Zwijnenburg studies conflict and climate for the Dutch NGO PAX. He told Climate Home that targeting fossil fuel infrastructure means “with limited effort you can have a pretty big impact.”
Both parties to the Ukrainian conflict have targeted enemy-controlled oil infrastructure.
The disruption this caused in Yemen led to a boom in rooftop solar panel installations during the eight-year war.
Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed said last year that “solar power was one of the most important aspects that helped meet demand.”
In Afghanistan, NATO tanker convoys have been frequently attacked, prompting the military to take energy-efficiency measures like insulated tents to reduce air conditioning use.
After the Syrian regime lost control of the oil fields in the east of the country, it had to rely on oil imports from Iran. An Iranian tanker was then offensive by a suspected rocket.
More recently, the United States accused Iran to send divers on speedboats to plant limpet mines on tankers linked to the United States and its allies.
Transmission lines, which carry both clean and dirty electricity from where it is generated to where it is consumed, are also vulnerable to attack.
To increase resilience, the Council on State Fragility, which represents many war-torn states, has recommended the installation of distributed renewable systems like solar panels on rooftops.
In a report Last year, the group said that “attacking infrastructure is common practice in conflict and power supply systems are obvious targets”, but distributed renewables “enable a diversified energy supply, increasing the resilience”.