Giant Nord Stream Methane Leak Detected From Space: ScienceAlert

On September 26, 2022, leaks were discovered in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 submarine natural gas pipelines located near Denmark and Sweden. Both pipelines are owned by Russia and were built to transport natural gas from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea.

Officials said the leaks were caused by deliberate action, not accidents, and were likely deliberate sabotage. While accusations abound, the motives behind the damage are still unknown.

Seismic disturbances were detected in the Baltic Sea, and officials said that while none of the pipelines were carrying gas at the time of the explosions, they still contained methane under pressure, which is the main component of natural gas.

The methane has now spewed, producing a wide stream of bubbles on the sea surface, which are visible from various Earth-orbiting satellites.

On September 20, 2022, a GHGSat observed the Nord Stream pipeline area and saw an estimated methane emission rate of 79,000 kg (174,000 lb) per hour. (GHGSat/ESA)

The private company GHGSat, which has active satellites that monitor methane emissions from space, turned its constellation of high-resolution satellites to measure the pipeline leak.

According to a release of the European Space Agency, GHGSat tasked its radar and microwave satellites to take measurements at wider viewing angles and was able to target the area where the Sun’s light reflected strongest from the sea surface – known as the ‘glowspot’.

What they found is that on September 30, the estimated emission rate, as seen from the first measurement of methane concentration, was 79,000 kg (174,000 lb) per hour, making this the largest methane leak ever detected by GHGSat from a point source only.

GHGSat said this rate is extremely high, especially considering this image comes four days after the initial breach, and this is just one of four ruptures in the pipeline.

In a press release, The company said this amount of methane is equivalent to more than 90,000 kilograms (2 million pounds) of coal burning in one hour.

ESA said that “monitoring methane over water is extremely difficult as water absorbs most of the sunlight in the short-wave infrared wavelengths used for methane remote sensing. This limits the amount of light that reaches the sensor, making thus extremely difficult to measure methane concentrations in the sea at high latitudes.”

Cloud cover contributed to the difficulty of making satellite observations of this event.

Although methane is partially dissolved in water and is not toxic, it is the second most abundant anthropogenic greenhouse gas in our atmosphere that causes climate change.

“The strength of active microwave radar instruments is that they can track ocean surface signatures of methane bubbling through clouds over a wide area and at high spatial resolution, overcoming one of the major limitations in optical instruments,” said Scientist for ESA’s Oceans and Ice. , Craig Donlon.

“This allows a more complete picture of the disaster and the relative timing of events to be established.”

Therefore, other Earth observation satellites carrying optical imaging instruments and radar were called upon to characterize the gas leak bubbles in the Baltic.

On September 26, Planet Labs’ Planet Dove satellite captured an image of the rupture of the Nord Stream pipeline in the Baltic Sea, about 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) southeast of the Danish island of Bornholm. (Planet Labs)

Planet Dove by Planet Labs The satellite showed a bubble disturbance in the Baltic Sea ranging from 500 to 700 meters (1,640 to 2,300 ft) across the water’s surface.

Other satellites have seen these views of the area:

This radar image was captured on September 28 by ICEYE – the first New Space company to join the fleet of Copernicus Contributing Missions. (ICEYE)
A gas leak in the Baltic Sea on September 29, 2022 from one of the damaged Nord Stream pipelines seen gushing to the surface by a Pléiades Neo satellite. (Airbus/Pléiades Neo)

Several days later, a significant reduction in the estimated diameter of the methane disturbance was observed as the pipelines were degassed. This animation from the Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite confirms this, showing views from September 30 and October 3, 2022.

Methane gas leak
Gas leak in Nord Stream pipeline detected by Copernicus Sentinel-2. (ESA)

Here is a map of the area where the pipelines are located. While the spill is no longer a threat, the effects of this disaster remain.

Nordstream pipeline map with vessel traffic lanes. (ESA)

This article was originally published by Universe Today. Read the original article.

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