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Nord Stream pipelines: Danish earthquake station registers suspicious signals


One event on Monday morning, another in the evening - a measuring device on Bornholm apparently recorded the moment when the Nord Stream pipelines were damaged.

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Photo: Oliver Berg/ dpa

The events in the Baltic Sea in the past few days can hardly be explained by coincidence: Both large natural gas pipelines Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2, which were built to supply Germany with Russian gas, leaked almost at the same time.

Significant amounts of gas flow into the Baltic Sea, ships have to bypass the area extensively.

The exact background is still unclear.

But one thing is certain: there should have been a lot of noise under the water.

This is indicated by measurement data available to SPIEGEL.

The German Research Center for Geosciences (GFZ) in Potsdam has analyzed the publicly accessible recordings of the seismic station on the Danish island of Bornholm.

The data from the "DK.BSD" station shows two events, one early Monday morning at 02:03 a.m. and another in the evening at 19:04 p.m.

At both points in time, the curve shoots up abruptly in the measuring range from two to eight hertz.

In both cases, there is also increased noise for hours afterwards.

According to the GFZ, earthquakes are not a possible source of the noise during this period.

Sudden drop in pressure

The noises drawn match the timing of the damage to the pipelines.

The first to be affected was the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was never put into operation and was probably filled with 117 million cubic meters of natural gas.

On Monday night, near the Danish island of Bornholm, there was a sharp drop in pressure in one of the two tubes of the pipeline at a depth of 70.1 meters.

On the German side, the pressure dropped suddenly from 105 to around seven bar.

Finally, on Monday evening, the pressure in Nord Stream 1 also dropped. There are apparently two leaks at a depth of around 88 meters, one on the Danish side and the other on Swedish territory.

To put this in perspective: the pressure on the earth's surface is around one bar, on a car tire it's around two bar, on a bicycle around four.

If the tire leaks, the pressure is equalized in a matter of seconds: the air escapes – until the pressure inside is about the same as the outside, i.e. around one bar.

Apparently that's exactly what happened under water, only that instead of air, large amounts of natural gas escaped.

According to the dpa, the Stralsund Mining Authority, which is responsible for the technical safety of the Nord Stream gas pipelines in Germany, announced that the pressure in the pipes had settled at a low level in accordance with the water depth.

The effects of this pressure equalization could also be seen on the water surface, as impressively demonstrated by video footage from the Danish armed forces.

F-16 fighter jets filmed the gas rising through the leak in Nord Stream 2 on Monday.

The hole appears to be of significant size - the gas stream was visible at the surface over a radius of more than a kilometer, they said (read more here).

Speculations about an attack

But the researchers don't know exactly what happened either.

The federal government does not rule out an attack.

He could have served to provoke uncertainty on the European gas markets, it is said from there.

"It's relatively clear that an act of sabotage took place there," assumed Johannes Peters from the Institute for Security Policy at Christian Albrechts University in an interview with SPIEGEL.

"And apart from Russia, no one should really be interested in doing something like that."

Researcher Julian Pawlak from the University of the Federal Armed Forces in Hamburg does not want to determine who could be responsible for the pipeline leaks.

But he says: "Anyone who does something like this wants to show what they are technologically capable of." Actors who tampered with decommissioned pipelines could ultimately do the same with actively used lines or underwater cables.

Telltale Sounds

Additional data may provide clues to the details of the incidents.

There is another reason why it is rather unlikely that a major event in the pipelines would go unnoticed.

This is because sound travels well underwater over long distances.

And as in other oceans, so-called hydrophones record these sounds under water in the Baltic Sea.

The military use the devices, for example, to track submarines.

These data are of course not publicly available.

However, ecologists are also working with the technology to investigate the impact on marine mammals from the noise of shipping traffic, but also from construction measures such as offshore wind farms.

This data could also provide insights into what is happening in the tubes on the bottom of the Baltic Sea in the coming weeks and months.

Jakob Tougaard conducts research at the university in Aarhus, Denmark, on noise in the sea and its consequences for the environment.

His institute operates a listening post in Faxe Bay off the island of Seeland.

Only it does not deliver its data continuously to shore, the device has to be recovered for reading.

Tougaard says that will be done within the coming week.

"If something loud happened, we will have heard it." Although the hydrophone is comparatively far from Bornholm, it is in a good position to listen.

The Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency operates a much closer hydrophone.

But if you ask there, the authority ducks away.

The Stralsund Mining Authority is responsible for technical questions - and the Federal Ministry of the Interior for safety-related aspects.

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2022-09-27

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