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UNEP calls Nord Stream methane leak ‘biggest-ever’; plume over Europe fading

Earlier this year, UNEP showed that oil and gas fields worldwide have been causing massive methane leaks, mostly due to faulty equipment
 

An iStock illustration shows the route of the Nord Stream pipeline between Russia and Germany An iStock illustration shows the route of the Nord Stream pipeline between Russia and Germany

The methane released due to ruptures in the underwater Nord Stream natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany September 26, 2022 is the single-biggest such release of the greenhouse gas, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

However, the methane plume over Europe is fading quickly, according to a French researcher’s tweet October 1, 2022.

Three confirmed and one potential gas leak have been detected in the Nord Stream pipeline, according to EosOrbital, a company that provides satellite-based solutions to challenges in the maritime domain, like oil spill monitoring and ship detection.

The leaks were detected in both Nordstream 1 and Nordstream 2 pipelines. The former was shut down indefinitely after the leak, according to the BBC. Germany suspended the latter following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The leak rate from one of the rupture points was estimated to be 22,920 kilograms per hour, according to GHGSat, a space and data technology company. This is the 285,763 kg of coal burning every hour, it noted.

“This rate is very high, especially considering it is four days following the initial breach,” the company wrote on its website September 30.

“This is really bad, most likely the largest emission event ever detected,” Manfredi Caltagirone, the head of the UNEP’s International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO), told news agency Reuters.

On September 26, the radius of the methane plume was 700 metres. It has now reduced to roughly 290 metres, IMEO noted.

The plume is spreading, Philippe Ciais, a researcher of the Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, wrote on Twitter September 30. The greenhouse gas has been detected in Finland, Sweden, Norway and the United Kingdom.

“The plume is fading quickly now and may still be detected in Eastern France and Germany on October 1,” Ciais tweeted October 1.

Methane is responsible for more than a quarter of the current global warming. The greenhouse gas is 80 times more harmful than carbon dioxide during the 20 years after it is released into the atmosphere.

“It is difficult to know how much methane is reaching the surface. But it is potentially hundreds of thousands of tonnes of methane: quite a big volume being pumped into the atmosphere,” Jasmin Cooper, a research associate at Imperial College London’s department of chemical engineering, told The Guardian.

Earlier this year, UNEP showed that oil and gas fields worldwide, from the United States to Turkmenistan, have been causing massive methane leaks. It added that the releases, most of which can be traced to equipment failures, can last for weeks.

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