Scientist: Minimal lasting environmental impact from Nord Stream gas leaks

Nord Stream 2 leak.
Nord Stream 2 leak. Source: SCANPIX/AFP PHOTO/DANISH DEFENCE

Ants Erm, a former senior researcher at the Tallinn University of Technology's Marine Institute and member of the joint environmental impact assessment committee with Finland prior to the construction of Nord Stream, said that the gas leak would not have a lasting impact on the environment.

Before construction of Nord Stream could begin in the Gulf of Finland, an environmental impact study was conducted. Ants Erm, a senior researcher on the Estonian side of the evaluation committee, told ERR's "AK" that the pressure of the pipeline in operation is 160 technical atmospheres (atm).

Erm was in charge of safety calculations at the time. "In the event that the pipeline were to break in the middle of the Gulf of Finland, six-meter-diameter bubbles would rise to the surface. These gas bubbles would unleash the same amount of energy as one of the Hiroshima bombs in 20 minutes. This is the most dangerous aspect of these accidents," Erm said.

Tarmo Soomere, a member of the commission at the time, said that tests involving anchors had also been conducted without incident.

For his part, Erm examined both the possibility of underwater landslide, utilizing the actual displacement of the Estonia ferry in his calculations, and the chance of an anchor or sinking ship crashing onto the pipe.

"The probability of something falling onto pipes is low. However, the Baltic Sea region is a very active place where something is always happens. So, it remains a real possibility. The most peculiar aspect is that both pipelines are damaged simultaneously. As painful as it is to admit, it seems to be evidence of sabotage," Erm said.

The senior expert stated that while there would be environmental effects on nearby species and fish, the gas leak will have minimal long-term effects on the ecosystem because the gas will rise to the surface and either explode or disperse into a cloud.

Pipe repairs are doable, albeit difficult. A 500-meter-deep gas pipeline off the coast of Norway was once damaged. The leak occurred in June and by January of the following year, the pipe was back in operation; so it is reparable," Erm said.

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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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