Powerful blasts were recorded by underwater sensors on 26 September 2022 and pressure suddenly dropped in the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines, both of which deliver natural gas from Russia to continental European countries. IEMA's Tom Pashby investigates.
Gas bubbles from a leak in the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline reach the surface of the Baltic Sea near Bornholm, Denmark [Danish Defence Command/Handout via Reuters]
Gas bubbles from a leak in the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline reach the surface of the Baltic Sea near Bornholm, Denmark [Danish Defence Command/Handout via Reuters]

European countries, particularly Germany, had already expressed concern about the continued supply of natural gas via pipelines from Russia, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the start of 2022.

Planned and unplanned shutdowns of supply have taken place across recent months, but this most recent interruption of supply has raised concerns about energy security even further, because of suspicions about the use of explosives to damage the pipelines.

The pipelines affected by the suspected explosions are still in the process of releasing their entire volumes of natural gas. The primary component of natural gas is methane – a potent greenhouse gas – which means that the global warming potential of the release from the pipelines is equivalent to one third of Denmark’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Rolls Royce is one of the companies which helped build the Nord Stream pipelines. They are also IEMA corporate partners.

Patrick Horgan, Director Global Network at Rolls Royce, said:

“Geopolitical risk and international volatility are constants we are accustomed to dealing with, but it’s clear that we are currently experiencing a period of extreme change and disruption, a departure from business-as-usual volatility.

“Political risk is listed as one of our Group Principal Risks and we have a process for assessing and managing it. We recognise that it is not a neatly defined, unitary risk, but a complex field in which the actual risks are defined by external factors over which we may have little or no control.

“Horizon scanning and situational awareness are key to anticipating and dealing with any emerging risks. Our approach uses multiple internal and external sources and pre-emptive mitigation measures, calibrated for the specifics of the actual risks we identify.”

Dr Andrew Coburn, CEO at Risilience, also pointed to the “apparent deliberateness” of the Nord Stream incident. He said:

“Given the extent of economic value spread globally through supply chains, geopolitical risks should absolutely feature in corporates’ outlook discussions.

“The unipolarity which characterised the late 20th century is very much at an end, and we are currently in transition to a multipolar world in which multiple actors command significant influence, which changes the behaviour of geopolitical risks tremendously. It is absolutely worth dedicating specific effort to understanding and managing geopolitical risks and exploring means of mitigation so that this transition proceeds as smoothly as possible.”

It is clear that the Nord Stream explosion represents another front opening up in the sustainability sector – with geopolitical risk having to now factor in alongside environmental, economic, cultural, technological and social risks.

Photo of Tom P
Tom Pashby

Digital Journalist, IEMA

Tom Pashby is a Digital Journalist at IEMA, working alongside the Head of Media Abigail Simmons, and the Senior Media Officer Tim Farmer.

Alongside their work for IEMA, Tom is currently studying part-time for an NCTJ Diploma in Journalism with PA Training, and freelances as a writer and editor. They have written about the climate emergency, LGBTQIA+ rights and the UK constitution for publications including the Times, the i newspaper, Metro, PinkNews and the Ecologist.