A fourth gas leak has been found on the Nord Stream pipelines EU leaders have said were deliberately sabotaged.
It follows the discovery of three leaks earlier this week in the pipeline that carries gas from Russia to the EU.
The suspected acts of sabotage in the Baltic Sea off Sweden and Denmark are believed by defence experts to have been premeditated attacks using underwater explosives.
The EU has promised that any deliberate attack on the continent’s energy infrastructure would be met with the “strongest possible response”.
The EU previously accused Russia of using gas supplies as a weapon against the West over its support for Ukraine.
But its leaders have stopped short of accusing Russia of the suspected attacks on the pipeline.
Some European officials and energy experts said Russia is likely to blame for any sabotage as it directly benefits from higher energy prices and economic anxiety across Europe caused by supply disruption.
However, others cautioned against pointing fingers until investigators are able to determine what happened.
Russia dismissed suggestions it had attacked its own pipelines as “predictable and stupid”.
Norway – which is not in the EU -has said it would deploy its military to protect oil and gas installations.
The Nord Stream 1 pipeline – which consists of two parallel branches – has not transported any gas since late August when Russia closed it down, saying it needed maintenance.
It stretches 745 mile under the Baltic Sea from the Russian coast near St Petersburg to north-eastern Germany. Its twin pipeline, Nord Stream 2, was halted after Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
Scientists fear methane erupting from the burst pipelines into the Baltic Sea could be one of the worst natural gas leaks ever and pose significant climate risks.
Both contained natural gas which mostly consists of methane – a greenhouse gas that is the biggest cause of climate heating after carbon dioxide.
The extent of the leaks is still unclear but rough estimates by scientists, based on the volume of gas reportedly in one of the pipelines, vary between 100,000 and 350,000 tonnes of methane.
“The climate risks from the methane leak are quite large. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, 30 times stronger than CO2 over 100 years and more than 80 times stronger over 20 years.”
It remains unclear how long the damage will make the pipelines unoperational.
Source: Evening Standard