Beyond the Nord Stream pipelines, methane leaks all over the world –

Tens of thousands of tons of methane leaked from the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines. But for specialists, this event is just one incident among thousands of others that occur every year around the world.

Leaks from Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines due to suspected sabotage in the Baltic Sea released around 70,000 tons of methane (read framed), a potent greenhouse gas, according to a Wednesday estimate by French researchers based on atmospheric observations. The Danish army had published on Twitter photos and videos of three bubbles on the surface of the Baltic Sea. These giant “jacuzzis” measure from 200 meters to 1 kilometer in diameter.

>> Read more: The leaks on the Nord Stream 2 submarine pipeline have ended

“These are significant figures, equivalent to 2% of French emissions or the emissions of a city like Paris in a year, this is not good news, but not a climate bomb,” noted Philippe Ciais, researcher at Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission (CEA), at the Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Sciences.

Great boiling in the Baltic Sea after three leaks in the Nord Stream gas pipelines. [Forces armées danoises – reuters]

These are much lower estimates than the first produced by experts or NGOs in the days following the explosions on the pipelines of September 26, which were based on estimates of the quantities of gas contained in the pipes. Many estimated them to be around 300,000 tons. However, the CEA researchers stressed that this first study should still “be confirmed by other modelers”.

Leaks, not isolated events

This is not the first time that losses caused by the hydrocarbon industry have occurred. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has often pointed out the huge amounts of methane that spill out of fossil fuel production plants around the world every year.

By 2021, he estimated that these global losses were equivalent to the entire gas consumption of the energy sector in Europe. As for the gas infrastructures in the world, often poorly maintained, they would lose about 10% of the quantities transported due to leaks.

Early 2022, CNRS researchers, including Thomas Lauvaux, associated with the Kayrros company, has mapped 1,800 methane plumes around the world and visible in satellite images. “We suspect that these leaks are common and date back several decades. But formally we are back in 2019, the year of the first satellites able to see this phenomenon,” explains Thomas Lauvaux, on Thursday in the RTS Tout a world program.

>> Read more: Massive industrial methane emissions identified from space

According to a study by the Commissariat for Atomic Energy and Alternative Energymethane emissions have increased by almost 10% in the last decade and 22% come from the exploitation of oil and gas.

Leaks occur mainly in the “big gas basins” in the United States, Algeria, Turkmenistan, Russia or Iran. “In all oil and gas producers, we regularly see huge losses coming out of their facilities,” he says.

Lack of transparency

These discharges are caused by accidental leaks “from a few days to a few weeks”, by almost continuous losses due to the age of the plants and by maintenance operations, “which represent almost half of the surveys”. “To secure the area, we leave the pipelines outdoors to ventilate the gas into the atmosphere,” describes Thomas Lauvaux.

Until now there was a “form of minimization” of leaks attributed to “rare incidents”. “We realize that we are far beyond the mere accident,” she said. The researcher denounces a lack of transparency that does not allow governments to act. He believes that more satellites and human resources are needed to be able to follow all the leaks on the planet.

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