FILE – A ship works offshore in the Baltic Sea on the natural gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 from Russia to Germany, on Nov. 11, 2018. Denmark’s maritime authority said Monday Sept. 26, 2022 that a gas leak had been observed in a pipeline leading from Russia to Europe underneath the Baltic Sea that is dangerous to shipping traffic. (Bernd Wuestneck/dpa via AP, File)
Bernd Wuestneck

BERLIN (AP) — Denmark’s maritime authority said Monday that a gas leak had been observed in a pipeline leading from Russia to Europe underneath the Baltic Sea and that there is a danger to ship traffic.

The operator of Nord Stream 2 confirmed that a leak in the pipeline had been detected southeast of the Danish island Bornholm in the Baltic Sea.

The pipeline runs 1,230 kilometers (764 miles) from Russia through the Baltic Sea to Germany. It is completed and filled with gas, but gas has never been imported through it, dpa reported.

The cause of the detected leak wasn’t immediately clear.

The Danish energy agency said in a statement that the country’s maritime authority has issued a navigation warning and established a five-nautical mile prohibition zone around the pipeline “as it is dangerous for ship traffic.”

The relevant authorities are currently coordinating the effort, and the Danish energy agency added that “outside the exclusion zone, there are no security risks associated with the leak.”

The incident is not expected to have consequences for the security of the supply of Danish gas, the country’s energy agency said.

A spokesman for the operator of Nord Stream 2 said a loss of pressure was detected in a tube early Monday, and the responsible marine authorities in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Russia were immediately informed, dpa reported.

While the pressure inside the pipeline is normally 105 bar, it is now only 7 bar on the German side, spokesman Ulrich Lissek said.

He fears that the pipeline, filled with 177 million cubic meters of gas, could run dry in the coming days, dpa reported.

It wasn’t immediately clear what consequences would follow from that, but a German environmental group said that the leaking gas isn’t toxic.

Deutsche Umwelthilfe pointed out that natural gas is methane, which partially dissolves in water and is not toxic. The deeper the gas is released in the sea, the higher the proportion that dissolves in the water, the group said, according to dpa.

Even in the event of an underwater explosion, there would only be local effects, Deutsche Umwelthilfe said.

The German economy ministry said it had been informed about the suspected site in Danish territorial waters and was in touch with the authorities in Germany and Denmark.

The pipeline was already complete when German Chancellor Olaf Scholz suspended the certification of Nord Stream 2 on the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, after Russia formally recognized two Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.

Germany has been heavily reliant on natural gas supplies from Russia, but since Moscow launched its war in Ukraine on Feb. 24, Berlin has been trying to look for other sources of energy.

The leak comes a day before the inauguration of a new pipeline, Baltic Pipe, which will bring Norwegian gas through Denmark to Poland. The Norwegian gas is meant to have an important role in replacing Russian gas.

The Associated Press

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