Gazprom remains silent about methane leaks (nd current)

The Baltic Sea pipeline in Russia begins near Leningrad.

Foto: TASS/Peter Kovalev

The now completed Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline from Russia to Germany is an international controversy. How do you feel about this project?

Nord Stream 2 is unfortunately very politicized. And this leads to the fact that one hardly thinks about the ecological and social aspects of this project. Let’s start with the routing: Even in the run-up to the construction of Nord Stream 1, environmental groups protested that this pipeline should run through the Karelian Isthmus. That is the best route, argued Gazprom at the time. In the case of Nord Stream 2, Gazprom now suddenly says that the optimal route is somewhere else, with the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland as the landing point. Why only such a superfluous and expensive route? Originally there was a reserve lane for a second pipeline, but Gazprom says it was closed.

Nord Stream 2 runs through the Kurgal nature reserve.

The pipeline could have been laid so that it did not run through the nature reserve. Instead, the regulations in the Leningrad region have been changed so that a route through the Kurgal nature reserve is within the framework of the law. An interesting approach: if a certain behavior is not in line with environmental regulations, you change the regulations, not the behavior.

What about compliance with environmental standards in gas production in Russia?

In the far north, in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug on the Yamal Peninsula, the permafrost soils are increasingly being destroyed. Gazprom has large plants there, and in addition to global warming, they also contribute to the destruction of the permafrost (this releases large amounts of greenhouse gases, d. Ed.). In general, climate change in areas with permafrost is progressing twice as fast as in other parts of the world. This process of destruction of the permafrost soils and the flora in the far north of Russia is exacerbated by the industry located there.

In the middle of last year, 20,000 tons of diesel from the Nornickel company contaminated the rivers on the Arctic peninsula of Taimyr. It had escaped from a tank built on permafrost. Due to the thawing of the ground, the porters were no longer able to hold the diesel tank stable. That was a disaster that was also caused by climate change. And that could also happen with Gazprom plants in the far north of Russia.

Are ecological standards at least complied with when transporting gas from northern Russia to Nord Stream 2?

Infrastructure was built for Nord Stream 2 to transport the gas from Yamal in northern Russia to the Gulf of Finland in the west. As a result, we have broken roads and illegal clearing of forests. All of this could be covered up with corruption.

Is the environment also being damaged by gas being transported to the EU?

This transport is very ineffective because a lot of gas is lost in the process. Until 2020, Gazprom has planned repeatedly to let gas escape during repair work. It is about 3000 kilometers from Yamal to the Gulf of Finland. Pumping the gas through such a long pipeline takes a lot of energy. This means that part of the gas to be transported is required as an energy carrier for pumping through the pipeline. There are repeated major explosions on the Gazprom pipelines. There can be five or more such accidents per year. These are caused by the wear and tear and the old age of the pipes.

Gazprom advertises that gas is less harmful to the climate than coal.

That may be so in the end with burning. But if you look at the entire cycle from mining to transport to use by consumers, then I’m not so sure whether gas is really more environmentally friendly than coal. Another problem is that Gazprom does not recognize that the leakage of methane during the extraction and transport of gas also has a negative impact on the climate.

How much gas escapes from the pipeline before it arrives in Germany?

Nobody can tell you exactly. But part of it escapes from the pipeline system, another part is stolen. At Gazprom they don’t talk about this issue.

Does Gazprom have any plans to switch to climate-neutral production?

No. While many companies are considering how to switch by 2040 or 2050, Gazprom is not considering it.

And what about solar or wind energy?

There are no plans here either.

Is energy saving at least a top priority?

Gazprom is the owner of MOEK PAO. Most apartments in Moscow are centrally heated by this. Gazprom would therefore have the opportunity to save energy in supplying Moscow. In this way, the group could show that it has an awareness of the climate and the environment. But every winter the Muscovites get annoyed that MOEK either heats too much or too little. This also means a great waste of energy.

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