Business, Media Criticism, Political Commentary, Technology and Society, War Commentary Nordstream September 30, 2022 Rand Simberg 28 Comments I’m no Chem E, but this seems like a pretty plausible explanation to me.
28 thoughts on “Nordstream”
I don’t have a theory about this (why bother?) but I’d have to run the numbers on this to develop a theory (and again, why bother?). Either the truth will come out, or it won’t, and entia non sunt multiplicanda sine necessitate.
The problem is that even trying for Occam’s razor, there is no simple, good explanation.
Multiple (up to 4 now) leaks in that pipeline, in a single 48 hour period? Well, maybe.
Russia? Why? They already control the flow
Ukraine? Why? They’re winning
EU? Why? So they can freeze more?
US? Why? We cannot extract and ship enough LNG to replace it.
Nobody benefits, so cui bono doesn’t work…
Ukraine and all of the NATO countries in Eastern Europe benefit; the Germans no longer have the option of cutting support for Ukraine to get their gas turned back on, a scenario that I thought was likely. The Germans were the last major EU power to start providing military aid to Ukraine after the invasion and before the invasion they neither provided Ukraine any military aid nor allowed military aid from other countries to transit their territory or airspace. I have no data to choose between sabotage or an accident, but there are beneficiaries.
Lawdog makes complete sense, but…
Overflights of US military on ads-b and the USS Kearsage in the very near area just before the explosion. Nuff said. Add to that the German citizens protesting to open Nordstream.
Our government is stupid, corrupt, and evil in that order.
As far as US assets in the area, there are LOTS of other assets as well…
Law Dog makes the same category error that lots of other people do- “methane is explosive.”
No, it is not. Methane-oxygen MIXTURES can be explosive. But there is _zero_ oxygen available to the methane in a pipeline. The dieseling he postulates is impossible unless a whole lot of special effort has been expended to force air or oxygen into the pipeline against the operating pressure.
That error alone destroys his credibility in my eyes, it’s Chem 101, for god’s sake.
Good point. And the fuel-air ratio of methane to Oxygen is 1:17
The author mentions in the comments that the explosion could have been purely mechanical, the result of a solid plug hitting a bend in the pipe at high speed, and that his dieseling comparison was inapt.
Other commenters speculate as to whether the impact could be energetic enough to dissociate some of the water, which would provide an oxidizer (I don’t know whether that’s possible or reasonable). Still, a purely mechanical “bullet” is enough to explain the event, it seems.
The main thing arguing against “the Russians did it” and for “accident due to Russian incomptence” is the Cui Bono issue. As long as the pipelines were intact, the Europeans could cave on sanctions and NordStream reopened, with gas flowing west and money flowing east. Cui Bono is US, UK, and Greens. Like I said, I’d hve to run the numbers to accept the methane hydrate threory (too painful for me to do, I am not good at it), and would have to think about that kind of chemistry to come up with my own accident theories. As for the details of sabotage, who knows? We’re talking about a world largely populated by boobs and assholes, so should not be surprised the world is run by same. “Never attribute to malice…” etc.
And Ukes. Add them to the Cui Bono candidates.
Or maybe Iran, as a Gazprom competitor…
Some sort of accident is far more likely than Russia doing it intentionally. Apparently a lot of people think Russia blowing up their own pipeline is the most rational theory though. /shrug
We will likely never know the truth of it.
There was the TWA Flight 800 disaster, which to this day “people” blame on a terrorist act or an errant missile from a US Navy exercise, but the accident investigators explained as an empty fuel tank containing jet fuel fumes exploding from an errant spark.
Who knew that Jet A fuel could form an explosive mixture — it isn’t supposed to do that. Since then, I guess, planes have added hardware to fill an empty tank with nitrogen?
Good luck doing as thorough an investigation on the pipeline as is done with a jet where hundreds of people perish. Or even doing a thorough investigation when hundreds of people perish in a jet that was overflying Eastern Ukraine as a Malay plane was doing.
The important thing about that link was a dude telling us that the mystery is not that a gas pipeline bursts open, the mystery is how to operate a gas pipeline that it doesn’t burst open — this is a First World skill.
As the old saying goes: “Never attribute to malfeasance that which can be attributed to incompetence.”
I agree with his general sentiment that while sabotage is possible, and quite plausible; it isn’t necessarily the top scenario. Hydrate formation is a big concern, and if this pipeline wasn’t flowing, then hydrate formation would occur at the coldest points. That would explain explosions in the same general location, because local metocean conditions supporting hydrate formation. Hydrate formation is why you have a parallel gas pipelines creating a loop that supports pigging.
There’s no water in the pipeline either so no possibility of hydrate formation. Also, no flow to drive a pig.
All natural gas has water vapor in it and as Law Dog points out, it has to be actively removed to prevent clathrate formation. It also helps to keep the gas flowing. So with high pressure, low temperature, no water purging and no flow, he argues that it is possible (inevitable?) that clathrates would form.
This is a transmission pipeline, not a gathering pipeline. Gas is dehydrated even before being transported in gathering pipelines to control corrosion and prevent condensation and freezing. Transmission pipelines reduce water to low ppm. Hydrate plugs happen in wells, before being processed at the well head. The critical temperature of methane is -161°C, the gas in the pipeline is exactly that, a gas.
But in this case the pipeline had been shutdown for months, gas was stationary.
Gas pipeline leaks are somewhat common, that’s why they have lots of pressure sensors and valves to isolate leaks. There would be no air in the pipeline and no plausible way to introduce it. There owuld not be enough oxygen in the water available to cause a fire and none was seen, just the gas bubbling to the surface. With the pipeline shut down, it’s hard to imagine any way to generate some sort of pressure transient.
The Baltic is fairly shallow and the most common hazard to undersea infrastructure is from ships dragging anchors or fishing trawlers. So a deliberate attack probably wouldn’t require submersibles or commandos, just a ship with an anchor. Cable and pipeline landings are supposed to be watched fairly closely so you might want to deploy the anchor from a submarine.
I would expect that ROV’s will have eyes on the damage in a few days.
Four nearly simultaneous leaks separated by miles argues for either sabotage or a particularly inattentive trawler captain.
If Russia did it, it would seemingly eliminate their major source of leverage on Europe. With the pipeline down for the indefinite future, they couldn’t restart it if they wanted to and they already shut it down by pushing a button.
Under normal cicumstaces, liquid methane doesn’t explode or even burn, and the pressurized gas is reluctant to do much either. Unless you run it through a 300 atmosphere gas turbine first. Even then, you need an ignition source (in Raptor, that’s a fancy spark plug).
I read where the seismic event that accompanied the ruptures would have required 100,000 tons of dynamite. So a 100 kiloton strategic nuke went off under the Baltic? You’d think someone would have noticed! On the other hand, given the whole area is in the middle of a post-glacial rebound event, and actual earthquake isn’t out of the question…
Don’t forget the step of mixing it with oxygen. Liquid methane does not exist at any pressure above -161°C, something I would expect the people here to know already. Natural gas is not transported through pipelines as a liquid.
This is the best reason I have seen so far to explain the time lag between explosions.
I guess if I thought the Russians did this on purpose, I’d want to know exactly how it was done. Because there are a large number of undersea pipelines bringing gas to Europe, and between European countries separated by sea. Maybe it was a practice run. There’s no way US LNG tankers can make up for all that. Not to mention before LNG can be distributed in Europe’s internal pipeline network, it has to be regassified at the terminal. How many LNG terminals in Europe? Twenty-nine, of which 4 are vulnerable floating terminals, and four are in Turkey.
Time for the; “if there’s no video, it didn’t happen.” test.
If they can get video from Deep Water Horizon two miles below the surface, getting ROV’s to these breaks is trivial. That will show just how the breaks happened. Damage from explosives would be unambiguous. Plenty of time since this happened. Lots of ROV’s in the North Sea. I’ll bet NATO has some too. This isn’t some remote place, it’s just off the coast of Germany.
It was more like 100 kiloGRAMs of TNT, you are 6 zeroes high. The pipelines are like 4 ft diameter and pressurized around 100 bar. That amount of energy could have been a sudden large breach rather than an exothermic explosion.
The rest of the coincidences are circumstantial, and I’m sure someone has concocted very convincing arguments for any of a half dozen actors having done this. Maybe one of them is right, heck maybe the Russians or Germans deliberately dislodged plugs to make it look accidental.
In the end though, the outcome is the same. There will be no January German detente, European greens will have to lie in the bed they made, and multiple players now have a plausible justification for attacking infrastructure. It’s a potentially massive turning point regardless of whodunit, even if it was nobody.
A few bits of new info seem to point the finger in one direction.
Caveat: the reporting may be wrong, so what I’m about to say may well be BS
There are two “pipelines’, Nord Stream 1&2, each having two pipes, for a total of 4.
Reportedly, one of the Nordstream 2 pipes was not hit. It is still pressurized (and thus operable).
So, with one remaining Nordtream 2 pipe (Pipe B), Russia certainly could resume its supply of gas to Germany (Due to Nordstream 2 having more capacity than Nordstream 1; Nordstream 2 was never operational, but was ready to operate). So, Russia’s energy leverage over Germany remains intact.
Out of all the suspect countries, only one has motive to leave one of the pipes intact: Russia.
My gut read on this; we’ve narrowed down our prime suspect list from most of Europe and North America, to somewhere within the Kremlin’s walls.
My guess going forward; this was a warning shot. Next up, other undersea pipelines, like the just-opened one from Norway to Poland. Also potentially on the target list; Europe’s gas storage (done via somewhat deniable means).
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