Huge gas leak from Nord Stream pipeline not big enough to warm climate, scientists say

The Nord Stream pipeline leak may have been the largest methane leak from man-made infrastructure in history, but it wasn’t large enough to have a measurable effect on Earth’s climate, according to a news report. study.

The study by Chinese researchers analyzed satellite data to estimate the extent of the Nord Stream gas leak. They found that about 250,000 metric tons (275,000 tonnes) of methane leaked from two pipelines that burst into the Baltic Sea in late September in suspicious circumstances widely attributed to Russian sabotage in the ongoing war in Russia against Ukraine.

Methane is the second most common greenhouse gas, known to be dozens of times warmer than carbon dioxide. Even though methane represents only 11% of the total greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (opens in a new tab)its contribution to global warming climate change is significant.

Related: Methane ‘super-emitters’ on Earth spotted by space station experiment

Methane escapes naturally from decaying materials, but also escapes from landfills and farms. The biggest contributor to global methane emissions is the oil and gas industry, which releases about 77 million tonnes (70 million metric tons) of methane each year. This means the Nord Stream incident produced about a day’s worth of methane emissions from the entire oil and gas sector, the researchers said in a statement (opens in a new tab). That much methane would warm the planet by just 0.000018 degrees Celsius (0.00001 degrees Fahrenheit), the researchers calculated.

“Such a small warming cannot be seen in ecosystems or human society,” Xiaolong Chen, a climatologist at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and first author of the study, said in the statement. . “Yet anthropogenic methane has been the second biggest contributor to global warming and is being emitted by multiple sectors of agriculture and industry. If we are to achieve the warming target below 1.5°C or 2° VS [2.7 to 3.6 degrees F] set out in the Paris Agreement, infrastructure damage like this must be avoided so that we can better control and reduce methane emissions.”

Satellite measurements have previously revealed that methane frequently leaks from oil and gas pipelines and processing facilities due to negligent behavior. Many of these leaks go unreported, meaning the shows aren’t officially counted. In recent years, satellites, including those based in Canada GESsat and that of Europe Sentinel 5 began measuring methane emissions from space, providing for the first time an accurate overview of the main sources of emissions around the world.

The European Space Agency announced last year it would develop a constellation of dedicated satellites to measure sources of human-made carbon dioxide emissions from space. Due to the high background concentrations of carbon dioxide in earth’s atmospheredetecting individual sources of this greenhouse gas is much more difficult than with methane.

At the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in 2021, the global community agreed that more objective means of monitoring emissions are needed to make progress in action against climate change. Countries currently self-report their emissions based on the performance of their fossil fuel-consuming industries. Therefore, emissions resulting from leaks and unreported incidents may not be accounted for at all.

The study (opens in a new tab) was published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Science on November 11.

Follow Tereza Pultarova on Twitter @TerezaPultarova. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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