Methane leaks from Nord Stream gas pipelines are less important than announced

This remains bad news, but less serious than feared. Leaks in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines due to suspected sabotage in the Baltic Sea have released around 70,000 tons of methane, a potent greenhouse gas Alternative Energies (CEA), according to the first estimate from atmospheric observations by researchers at the Commissariat for Atomic and Atomic Energy.

“That corresponds to 5.8 million tons of CO2ie the emissions of the city of Paris for one year or 1.4% of annual French emissions, explains Philippe Ciais, climatologist (CEA) at the Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Sciences. That’s a lot when we compare it to the decarbonization efforts of a country like France, but tiny when we consider the climate impact. » The risk of a “climate bomb” is therefore excluded.

Also read: Article reserved for our subscribers Leaks at the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines: risk of a “climate bomb”

These estimates are much lower than the first made in the days following the September 26 underwater explosions. Based on the length of the gas lines and the gas pressure, experts had said that 300,000 tons of methane – the main component of natural gas – could have escaped. The calculation carried out by the CEA is based on simulations carried out with readings from stations of the European observation network ICOS, which continuously measures atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.

Two hypotheses

“The results surprised usrecognizes Philippe Ciais, but our data is very accurate, with an error bar of at most plus or minus 10%. » How can such discrepancies be explained? The researcher put forward two hypotheses: emergency valves could have been activated, so that only part of the gas would have escaped; some of the methane would have been dissolved in the water “It’s very unlikely”he says.

The stations make it possible to reconstruct the path of the methane: after a very large release in the hours following the explosions, the leaks have reduced and are no longer detectable. The cloud was carried by the winds to northern Sweden, then south before passing through Norway and then heading partly to the far north and partly towards the Kingdom of Kingdom and the tip of Brittany. where a “small surplus” of this gas has been detected.

If concerns were high, it’s because the warming potential of methane is much higher than that of carbon dioxide (CO2) – 82 times more over twenty years, 29 times more over hundred years, even if it degrades faster. Methane is like that responsible for a third of global warming since the pre-industrial era.

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