Nordstream

*crosses self*

“Hail Mary, full of grace …”

Ok, the Nord pipeline incidents.

Sigh. I shouldn’t do this, but …

I call them “incidents” for a reason. I grew up in overseas oilfields. I try to, by training, observe everything from as objectively neutral a viewpoint as possible.

In my experience when anything involving energy-industry hydrocarbons explodes … well, sabotage isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. And honestly, when it comes to a pipeline running natural gas under Russian (non)maintenance, an explosion means that it’s Tuesday. Or Friday. Or another day of the week ending in “y”.

“But, LawDog,” I hear you say, “It was multiple explosions!”

Yes, 17 hours apart. No military is going to arrange for two pipes in the same general area to be destroyed 17 hours apart. Not without some Spec Ops guy having a fit of apoplexy. One pipe goes up in a busy shipping lane, in a busy sea, and everyone takes notice. Then you wait 17 hours to do the second — with 17 hours for people to show up and catch you running dirty? Nah, not buying it.

The Nord pipelines weren’t in use. To me, that means it’s time for maintenance! Hard to maintain pipes when product is flowing.

Pipelines running methane, under saltwater, require PMCS* quicker than you’d think, and more often than you’d believe.

I would bet a cup of coffee that any of the required weekly and monthly checks and services since the Russians took over have been pencil-whipped. (See Andreev Bay 1982.)

They officially shut it down in July of 2020 for maintenance, and had cornbread hell getting it back on-line, and “issues” with maintaining flow throughout the next year; shut it down again in July of 2021, with bigger “issues” — we say “issues” because the Russians won’t explain what these issues were — and even more problems, including unexplained, major disruptions in gas flow in Dec21/Jan22; Feb 22; and April 22.

Yeah, there’s problems with those lines. And these are the same folks that PMCS’d Chernobyl.

So. They’ve got pipelines with issues that are currently pressurised (with highly flammable, if not outright explosive, natural gas/methane), but not moving product. It’s time to find out what those issues are.

And they blew up. My shocked face, let me show you it. Next time, tell Sergei to put out the cigarette before pulling a pressure test.

Is there a possibility of sabotage? Yeah. Especially in the current world situation — but folks thought the Kursk went down because of hostile actions, too.

So, yes, hostile actions are a possibility, but mass amounts of explosive hydrocarbon gas + 300 feet down under salt water + shoddy Russian maintenance = “Nobody could have possibly seen this coming”, and yet another entry into the extensive Wikipedia page on “Soviet/Russian disasters”.

“But what issues could happen in an undersea pipeline that could cause ruptures?”

Oh, my sweet summer child. Many, many, many. You might go far as to ask, “What issues won’t cause a rupture in an undersea pipeline?” — It’d be easier to list.

However, in this case involving a natural gas pipeline under the pressure of 300 to 360 feet (8 atmospheres to 10 atm.) of water, I’d like you to turn your eyes towards a fun little quirk of nature called “methane hydrates”.

Well, actually, I’d like you to meditate upon “hydrate plug”, but give me a moment.

Under certain circumstances of pressure, temperature, and water presence natural gas/methane will form solid hydrates, with concomitant amounts of fun.

For the Chinese definition of fun, anyway.

Keeping hydrates from forming is a constant battle, requiring vigilance, expertise, diligence, and constant water removal. If any of these things slack at any time — you’re getting hydrate formation.

The presence of solid hydrates in a pipeline can cause flow issues (causing cracks), destabilize the pipe itself (more cracks), and cause fires (bad. Very Bad), but the big issue (pun intended) is when you form enough hydrates that it blocks the pipe entirely (see: Hydrate plug, above).

A hydrate plug is one massive pain in the tuchkiss to remove, and removal of said hydrate plugs is not a task to be undertaken by idiots, rank amateurs, morons, the terminally unlucky, or stupid people.

The Recommended Best Practice to clear a hydrate plug is a vvveeerryyy slllooowww depressurisation from BOTH ENDS, SIMULTANEOUSLY.

How slowly, you ask? For a pipeline the size of Nordstream we’re talking weeks.

As the line reaches local atmospheric pressure heat is transferred to the plug from the environment, and the plug begins to melt, starting at the plug/wall interface.

However, if you are a national gas company with institutional paranoia, a Nationalised aversion to looking weak or asking for help, and a Good Idea Fairy fueled by vodka — well, you can depressurise the pipe from one end.

Doing so from one end does happen, but carrying it out requires a lot of very experienced people, luck (no, more than that), and the favour of multiple gods to pull off.

If the Gods blink, or Jobu has a particular case of the hips at you, what generally happens is the hydrate plug will still melt at the plug/wall junction, but when it does, the pressurised side will launch the plug (five feet in diametre, and the same density as water ice) at almost 200 miles an hour down the pipe towards the depressurised side.

When this plug bullet hits a bend in the pipe — well, it doesn’t stop, nor does it change direction easily. It’s going to make a hole.

What’s even more fun is when somebody figures out what’s happening and slams the valves closed ahead of that fast-moving plug. It’s called the Diesel Effect — for those of you a little shaky on your High School physics, here’s an interesting video of the Diesel Effect.

Done watching? Good.

Now, I want you to imagine that the clear tube in the video is a gas pipeline. The piston part and the hand is a 200-pound chunk of methane hydrate; the force being applied by a human arm is being applied by that 200-pound chunk of hydrate moving at 130 miles per hour.  And the cotton wool is actually just a section of pipe full of lovely, flammable natural gas.

Yeah. Boom. Big bada-boom.

If you’re lucky, the wall of the pipe will rupture before the ignition point … for various values of ‘lucky’.

Another fun thing that occurs to usually-intelligent people is to “gently warm the area of pipe where the plug is”.

Don’t do this. Methane hydrates disassociate really, really rapidly in the presence of heat. A pocket of gas will form somewhere inside the plug, next to the pipe wall, and the massive, localised pressure increase will rupture the pipe, spilling vapourised natural gas all over your heat source. (See “Bada-boom, above.)

Funny enough, this actually happened in Siberia in 2000-ish. Pipeline got a nice-sized hydrate plug, and the muckity-mucks at Gazprom got annoyed at how long it was taking to deal with it. Lot’s of yelling, and the Ops guy sent Some Random Schmuck down to the site of the plug with a butane torch, and orders to warm up the pipe to speed up the melting at the plug/pipe interface. Simple, right? There’s no way a butane torch has enough oompf to overcome the thermal mass of a pipeline and burn a hole through the line.

It didn’t. The heat from the torch caused a small pocket of  the hydrate to sublimate into gas, the overpressure involved ruptured the pipe and opened a jet of natural gas right into the flame of the torch. Random Schmuck did not, we think (not sure they found anything of him) survive this experience, nor did several miles of very expensive pipeline.

Finally, for some reason, bureaucrats, politicians, amateurs, the alcohol-inspired, and idiots (but I repeat myself) always want to “Just blow that bloody plug out of the pipe”.

Don’t do this. Ever. Just … don’t.

There are three things required for methane hydrate to form: pressure, temperature, and H2O. Since methane hydrate is quite common under the Baltic seafloor, we can assume that the pressure and temperature of a pipeline running across that seafloor is conducive to hydrate formation.

But … where does the water come from? 

Remember the paragraph above that mentioned: “vigilance, expertise, diligence, and constant water removal”?

Gas companies go to great lengths the remove water from natural gas, but it’s all predicated on the gas moving along. The sending side runs the gas through a media that removes water, and probably injects glycol or methanol into the stream just in case … but everything is predicated on the gas getting to the destination and out of the pipe.

Near as I can tell — and do correct me if I’m wrong — Russia charged Nord 2 with 300 million cubic metres of natural gas in July of 2021 … and it never moved. It just sat there. Under 300 to 360 feet of salt water.

To quote an email from a petroleum engineer: “Holy Jesus, that [deleted] pipline is one hairy snowball from end-to-end!”

Nord 1 got shut down after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the gas hasn’t moved since. Just … hanging around. At the bottom of a sea.

Yeah, it’s Russia. Those pipes are sodding well FULL of hydrates.

Am I saying that there is no way that these incidents could possibly be the result of deliberate direct action? No. That area is too full of idiots — HOWEVER:

It’s hundreds of millions of cubic metres of extremely flammable — nay, explosive — gaseous hydrocarbons being transported by Russians, and subject to Russian maintenance. And I’m here to tell you — Russian maintenance under the current oligarchy system isn’t any better than it was under the Soviet system.

It blew up. Until I see evidence of bad actions, I’m going to shrug and say, “Damn. Must have been a day ending in “y”.

“So, LawDog,” I hear you say, “What do you think happened?”

Honestly, I suspect someone in the Russian government pinged Gazprom, and said, “The EU is about to have a cold winter. make sure those pipelines sodding well work, so we can sell someone natural gas at massively increased prices.”

So, Somebody In Charge started running checks — and came up with hydrate slurry in both pipelines. After the running in circles, hyperventilating, and shrieking of curse-words stopped, somebody started trying to remediate both lines. Of course they didn’t tell folks down stream — no Russian want to look weak, and besides, there’s been a nasty uptick in failed Russian oligarchs getting accidentally defenestrated — they just unilaterally tried to Fix Things.

It’s methane hydrate. Trust me, if there’s a hydrate plug, there’s more than one. With both pipes having no movement for months, if not a year, there were a metric butt-ton of hydrate plugs, slurry, and rime in both pipelines.

The Fixing of Things went bad. One went Paws Up, and they started trying to stop the other — but pressurisation (both ways) is a weeks-long process, and the second went bad, too. 

It happens.

LawDog

*PMCS: Preventative Maintenance Checks and Services

Blink.
She got a hate review!

338 thoughts on “Nordstream”

  1. What an excellent explanation of why I keep telling people that this was most likely a freaking accident caused by typical Russian incompetence.

    1. Yeah, they just maintain the largest gas pipeline network on the world, but they have no expertise and are too incompetent.. (btw, please look up who built these acutally and how long ago).

      And the argument for special ops not doing that 17h apart, what? But totally reasonable this happened “naturally” by the hydrate plug just 17h apart on all 4 pipes.. sure.

      Not saying that is not a possibility, sure.. but come on, probability is so low for such an arrogance.. but thats the usual problem from our weat perspective.. alone the number of “trust mes” in this post..

      (Btw, the math one can do from the seismic data pretty much drives probability for hydrate plug driven rupture towards nil..).

      1. If they are simultaneously performing plug clearing on all pipes, why wouldn’t the explosions be within hours are days of each other? Temperatures and pressures are similar.

      2. Yes they are too incompetent.

        Things randomly explode in Russia all the time. I suggest you get some real life experience with how they run things. It’s atrocious. From nuclear power plants down to normal trucks. Everything is a potential incident, accident or worse.

        1. Explode in the presence of oxygen, yes.

          Explosions without oxygen are only due to rupture of the vessel, no chemistry involved…..

        2. You mean like three mile island, the sundry and various US train wrecks in the past ten years, or the blow up of our offshore driving platforms in the Gulf and North Sea?

          Sorry this accident bs doesn’t pass the smell test.

          1. TMI was humans not paying g attention or not believing what the computers were telling them. The computers overrode the humans and shut it down. There was NO leakage and no outer damage.
            I was told this by one of the first people to enter TMI, a boiler designer called in to inspect and determine what happened.

      3. The jury is still out on the actual cause/culprits of course, so it COULD be anyone/anything. But your arguments against the the hydrate plug are weak.

        ” …but they have no expertise and are too incompetent.. (btw, please look up who built these acutally and how long ago).”

        The Russians DO have a track record of poor levels of maintenance and unregulated activities leading to a variety of disasters. The builders of a system are not necessarily the operators/maintainers…

        “…But totally reasonable this happened “naturally” by the hydrate plug just 17h apart on all 4 pipes.. sure…”

        the suggestion is that tis happened as a result of an attempted maintenance process which went wrong – and might well have involved both pipelines. Military activity would more likely have been simultaneous.

        “(Btw, the math one can do from the seismic data pretty much drives probability for hydrate plug driven rupture towards nil..).”

        I haven’t seen the detailed seismic data, and I don’t know how different a pipe-burst would be from an explosion – both create rapidly expanding balls of gas. All that has been said so far is that the data does not support an earthquake or landslide…

      4. When the incorrigible and media’s favorite villain, Trump, told the Euros not to go with this Russian pipeline they didn’t listen to him and now they have to pay for it. Wow , should be a cold winter.

          1. Neither…
            According to one source, that specific quote does not appear earlier than about 1980.
            Not that it matters. If a principle is sound, it does not have to be first uttered by someone famous to be worth repeating. People have been saying similar things for centuries.

            As for the Little Emperor? There is another quote of his that might be worth considering. “I tell you, it will be a picnic!”…… said to his staff on the morning of Waterloo after one of his Peninsular veterans suggested that they be wary of the extraordinary quality of British infantry.

    2. So, the Russians have been piping gas to Europe since the opening of the Yamal fields in 1966, never any explosion in those 66 years, then bang, they have four at a time when two of the Americans that have a dog in the fight promised the N-2 would never run they have a maintenance issue, arghhhh, please, try another one.

        1. These explosions were due to rupture of the pipeline.
          Liberated gas then mixed with atmosphere –> oxygen
          And Boom

          No atmosphere to mix with under water.

          Where did the oxygen come from?

          1. Why do you bother to comment if you haven’t read the post? Seriously?

            If you had actually read the post, you would have read the part where I said, and I do quote:
            “If the Gods blink, or Jobu has a particular case of the hips at you, what generally happens is the hydrate plug will still melt at the plug/wall junction, but when it does, the pressurised side will launch the plug (five feet in diametre, and the same density as water ice) at almost 200 miles an hour down the pipe towards the depressurised side.

            When this plug bullet hits a bend in the pipe — well, it doesn’t stop, nor does it change direction easily. It’s going to make a hole.”

            I am going to reiterate the important parts: 1) Hydrate Plug; 2) Driven by pressure differential; 3) Hits bend in pipe at almost 200 MPH; and 4) (Pay attention here, this is the important part) KNOCKS A HOLE, THEREBY RUPTURING THE PIPE.

            What about that requires oxygen, or even atmosphere?

            None of it? Then why did you ask?

        2. Not to mention the catastrophe f the loss of the Aral Sea. Not as dramatic as Chernobyl or the gas explosion due to the valley filing with natural gas but still a stunning example of Russian Mis-management!

      1. Hydrate just means “water hull”. You can’t make water burn, at least not with hydrocarbons. The oxygen is already in a very stable state and you’ll get no energy out of it. So scratch the Diesel effect.

        Combined with the scale of the explosions, a simple (very violent) rupture does not fit.

          1. The fact that you call that setup an engine tells me everything I need to know. And what I know is that ignoring you is the best option.

        1. This is my confusion:
          Do we have ANY idea how large the “explosions” were? Pipe ruptures or big booms? If big booms — why no burning gas in sight anywhere? Big fire, column of flammable gas racing towards the surface — why no column of fire shooting out of the sea surface?

          How BIG a chunk of pipe was likely blown out (three times)? Why didn’t the miles of pipe full of explosive/or burnable gas explode – and all that escaping gas ALSO light on fire?

          If a hydrate plug blew out a bend or sidewall, and started the release of flammable gas…. why TWO explosions on one pipe, and one on the other? (And the 17 hrs? A timer on the sabotage seems pretty likely.)

          Thanks for the really great explanation (I learned a lot) but trying to work it out with my barely educated logic doesn’t get me there.

          (Love your books!)

      2. Not sufficient oxygen for a true explosion. It’s easy to see them destroying the pipeline with overpressure, but you need a lot of oxygen for an explosion.

        1. Is it unpossible that poorly trained Russian techs allowed oxygen to mix with the natural gas?

          The other explanation is the oxygen comes from disassociating the water oxygen during the hammer overpressure event.

          1. If there were sufficient air/oxygen mixed in the natural gas to cause auto-ignition, the explosion would likely have occurred during the compression of the natural gas before it went into the pipeline.

    1. From the ice lattice around the methane molecule. Alternatively, there was no fire explosion, just a pressure rupture.

        1. Doesn’t technically have to be exothermic; we equate explosions with exothermic reactions because that’s the primary means of generating a damaging pressure wave in an ambient atmosphere. But when you pressurize something to such a high degree, you’re basically shoving a whole bunch of potential energy into a small space, just like loading up a spring. If something goes wrong, and the spring gets released, a lot of that potential energy can get converted into kinetic energy in a real hurry.

          Imagine for a moment the slug Lawdog described crashing through a mild bend in the pipeline, slashing open several feet of pipe. Now, all of that immense pressure has a point through which it can escape, and it all tries to do so at once, tearing the hole even wider–but in a fraction of a second. The forces involved would be akin to a highly-energetic exothermic reaction, but could be accomplished solely through the rapid equalization of pressures.

          1. Yes, i understood from the beginning on.

            I commented on the specific part involving the discussion of combustion, where it was challenged where the oxygen comes from, and where someone else mentioned it is in the water (the ice). But that oxygen will only serve as oxidiser for the methane in a way that leads to explosiveness if the chemical reaction of splitting the oxygen out of the water and burning the methane with that oxigen is exothermic (under the given pressure).

            The mechanical aspects are not touched by my question.

          2. imho the definition of explosion is only the speed of the pressure front, in this case faster than sound under atmospheric conditions.
            How “explosion” is defined in and under 50m of water column I don’t know. The speed of sound under water is faster by magnitudes.

          3. You can pretty much look up how many slight bends the pipelines make at all those 4 sites that sure no sabotage chief would do, but “naturally” occur, lol..

          4. Old Maps,
            With sufficient heat, pressure, or both, water moves toward a vapor state, and then continues to move toward dissociation, resulting in free oxygen and hydrogen (which advances combustion more). We see this in metal fires at ambient pressure such as magnesium engine blocks (we have to use a specialized extinguisher or dirt as water just feeds the fire), magnesium flares that burn underwater (they aren’t self-oxidizing, they dissociate the water molecules), and even with electrolysis of water.

        1. Yes. If you calculate how much pressure is released in the explosion of pressure vessels, every cubic meter at 120bar expanding into 7 bar environment is about 10kg TNT of energy just from the expansion of the gas, so you would need just a 15-20m of pipeline content suddenly expand to have a 250kg or 500 pound wort of TNT-equivalent energy

        2. Sorry. 500 kg of tnt. At least that’s according to spiegel.

          It’s an interesting theory. But if the system is that plugged with ice, the incident should have happened closer to the low pressure zone. Closer to Russia.

          And I have a problem with “bends” in the pipe. The maps are inexact – deliberately so – and the big pipe laying ships generally don’t creat kinks. They use 3d imaging and map out a path, and then slowly lower freshly welded pipe surrounded by fast setting concrete slurry around the outside. It’s like a giant cable (and large steel pipes will act just like that at this scale). So I’m not convinced these are true angles. You’ll get those on land, but land pipe lays and ocean lays are completely different beasts.

          One thing I do know. These pipes are dead. Permanently.

    2. Dont need O2. Get enough pressure and the line ruptures from pressure. It’s an explosion because its a rapid catostrophic release of pressure not an explosion from combustion.

      1. And, of course, one has to maintain the outside of the pipeline. If substandard steel is used (this is Russia, after all) then exterior rusting and seal corrosion can happen.

        Exasperate that by people dragging all sorts of stuff across the sea floor, from anchors to nets to who-knows-what and whacking and/or entangling and/or snagging the pipeline, and that can cause thinning of the walls or destruction of the seals.

        Perhaps a catastrophic concatenation of interior and exterior problems caused the failures.

        1. What is called in the rechargeable battery industry as a ‘rapid disassembly.’ “No, sir, your battery didn’t explode. Our batterys don’t explode. It just disassembled, rapidly.”

          Disassembled all over the room, disassembled so rapidly the end-cap is in the wall 10′ away. But it’s not an explosion…

          1. Reminds me of the phrasing in the report on the SL-1 military reactor explosion: “the core pile spontaneously disassembled itself.”

      1. It takes lots of energy to dissociate water. Sodium or potassium metal reacts with water, combining with the oxygen and releasing hydrogen, which can then explode in an oxygen or air atmosphere. It will not explode in an inert atmosphere. Water and methane will not explode, no matter the pressure. The presence of nitrate groups with aromatic hydrocarbon groups is the most likely source of such energy. Ever hear of trinitrotoluene?

    3. An explosion is a rapid expansion of material, not necessarily caused by combustion or detonation, both terms referring to oxidative processes. A solid material which can exothermicly release energy when it changed phase is easily capable of exploding without the presence of oxygen.

    4. Why do you bother to comment if you haven’t read the post? Seriously?

      If you had actually read the post, you would have read the part where I said, and I do quote:
      “If the Gods blink, or Jobu has a particular case of the hips at you, what generally happens is the hydrate plug will still melt at the plug/wall junction, but when it does, the pressurised side will launch the plug (five feet in diametre, and the same density as water ice) at almost 200 miles an hour down the pipe towards the depressurised side.

      When this plug bullet hits a bend in the pipe — well, it doesn’t stop, nor does it change direction easily. It’s going to make a hole.”

      I am going to reiterate the important parts: 1) Hydrate Plug; 2) Driven by pressure differential; 3) Hits bend in pipe at almost 200 MPH; and 4) (Pay attention here, this is the important part) KNOCKS A HOLE, THEREBY RUPTURING THE PIPE.

      What about that requires oxygen, or even atmosphere?

      None of it? Then why did you ask?

    5. To date I’ve seen no proof there even were any explosions.

      What happens is once pressure is released on one side, you’ve converted the pipe into the world’s largest one stage light gas gun. The plug gets fired at something approaching the local speed of sound. When the rupture occurs, it puts enough energy out in a short time that hydrophones might mistake it for an explosion (detonation).

  2. Thanks for this. None of the news coverage of this I’ve seen has had any suggestions of what actually could be happening by somebody who actually knows anything about pipelines. It’s almost like they have avoided talking to anybody in the industry to avoid getting dirty.

  3. Ian….
    Many thanks for that.

    Talking online, even in forums that are usually sensible, it is as though Biden Derangement Syndrome has taken hold to the point that people can’t bring themselves to believe that it wasn’t the US Government.

    I get the disgust with the current administration. I share it. But when that is taken to the point of denying that there are other evil/incompetent people in the world….. ?

    Tribalism…

    1. Regarding Biden Derangement Syndrome; if Biden had ORDERED the pipelines blown up, there would have been an explosion in Patagonia. Everything the man touches turns into a fustercluck.

      1. Charles…
        That thought did occur to me.
        Likewise, his ability to keep it a secret…. and it always pays to consider what the cost will be if things don’t go to plan.

        Biden may be senile, but surely someone in his administration would consider the ramifications if it got out that the US was deliberately freezing millions of “allies”.

        1. If the gas wasn’t moving they wete not running pigs through any of the lines. No pigs means no pushing water out of low spots, no doing thickness readings and no cleaning anything eating your steel off the inside surface. If you planned on shutting a line down for more than a couple months you should pig it and then purge behind the pig with nitrogen to make sure its full of innert dry gas.

          Our company rules for a laid up pipeline are pretty strict on preventing a laid up.line from becoming ‘exciting’.

        2. He did promise to do it on Feb. 7, 2022. Probably means Obama promised to do it. Either way it adds to the argument that it was sabotage.

      2. That, or the ship (or sub) sent to do the deed would have ended up on the bottom next to the pipeline, or if neither of those happened Biden would have forgotten he wasn’t supposed to say this part and bragged about taking out the pipeline.

        1. It was almost certainly the Ukrainians. And the job could be easily accomplished with professional scuba divers given military grade explosives. Jacques Cousteau was diving deeper than this in the 40s with the first generation scuba diving equipment.

          1. Ukraine has a far larger Russian gas pipeline running through its territory that it hasn’t touched. It also is entirely dependent on European aid to win its war that would be imperiled if they were caught.

            They have zero motivation to do this.

    2. Oh, there’s no such tribalism. Plenty of ne’er do wells out there.

      Simple cui bono leads to elements of the administration.

      1. AB…. “Cui Bono” is not simple when you start asking what the costs are, when it is realised who did what.

        Free lunches and all that.

    3. It it was sabotage it was most likely the Ukraine government. Any competent professional dive supplied with military grade explosive could easily accomplish this. And the ukraine government has been campaigning for the nordstream pipelines to be permenenttly shut down since day one of the war.

      1. Ukraine isn’t going to commit sabotage of their partners pipelines when they are dependent on those partners to win this war.

    4. The evil, incompetent people in the world that we hate are more evil and more incompetent than other evil, incompetent people in the world that we are more neutral about, or more ignorant of.

    5. “Biden Derangement Syndrome”

      or:

      Who had the best REASON for sabotage? Why both pipes? Why at essentially the same time? Why JUST as the new Polish /Norwegian replacement pipeline is about to start up? Why “just randomly” near U.S. Navy equipment apparently entirely SUITED to such a sabotage? How is this not some version of “nuke ’em before they nuke us” without the radioactivity?

      And we even have “our” govt making quite clear they were committed to blowing it up long before it “suddenly happened.” {innocent face} Surely you do not think our foreign overlords “just would not do this,” despite having stated they would?

      1. Biden has worked extremely hard to build a European coalition against Russian aggression that Ukraine is dependent upon for its very survival. He’s not going to risk tearing it apart getting caught doing sketchy sabotage operations against out of work pipelines.

      2. And the day before the explosions, there was a large protest in Germany demanding the lines be re-opened. Someone saw to it that no amount of citizen protest will stop the official sanctions? Or just another in a series of coinkydinks?

        1. Good luck setting up a *clandestine* operation of that nature in less than 24 hrs.

          Also, despite media hype and maskirovka, the German government does not anticipate running out of gas and freezing its population. Last I heard, they hadn’t even brought in much in the way of mandatory restrictions.

  4. I worked in a high pressure gas field for 2 years. It’s a tricky thing to work with, and when pipe breaks, even a small 6 inch pipe will beat the handrails off a platform with a valve connected causing the most damage. Considering the Nor Stream is 48 inches in diameter, and operating at 3600 psi, any break will cause damage beyond imagination.

  5. Thank you, Lawdog. Hopefully, sharing this where some people can see this will help tone down the “intentional action” people and bring some sanity to the world.

  6. Lawdog according to a few moments of internet research BOTH the Russians and the Germans jointly maintain Nordstream.

    You do know Germany put up 50% or so of the cash to build it?

    So somehow both the lousy good for nothing godless Russians AND the Germans had to fail to maintain this system. Or at least the Germans failed to announce that the Russians were not doing their part?

    1. The flow is one way, and maintenance can only work from the sending end.

      Pigs, scrubbers, whatever, can only happen in the direction of flow.

      If the sending end shuts the valve, there’s nothing the receiving end can do.

    2. Michael…
      Did you miss the bit where he described how Gazprom, acting on their own, would cause a catastrophic kaboom?
      Maybe we could debate the bit about Gazprom’s institutional attitude to such things, but they DO have form WRT serious stuff-ups.

      The Germans can’t *make* Gazprom keep the gas moving and the don’t control the quality and thoroughness of Gazprom’s scrubbing of water vapour before the gas goes into the pipe… which are two of the factors that make hydrate plugs far more likely

    3. if its like the german military, they do next to nothing in the way of maintenance. most of their fighter jets and helos are unflyable, most of their tanks are unusable due to lack of maintenance. or at least they were six months ago.

    4. If the Germans do their thing and the Russians do their thing, then it blows up. Both have to be “German” for the pipeline to not blow up – or not as often.

      1. That’s an interesting claim.

        70% of the 330 million Americans claim to be Christians, while 47% of the 146 million Russians do the same.

        By raw numbers (Pew Research Center, 2010), the U.S. had 246,790,000 Christians, the most in the world. Russia was fourth with 105,220,000.

      2. I wondered about that. How many are highly placed in government? US or Russian; I don’t know the answer myself.

      3. If we assume the entire population of Russians claiming to be a variety of Christian other than Russian Orthodox are actually practicing Christians, and then add the upper-end estimates of Russian Orthodox who actually practice their faith in the sense of “Go to church at least one time in a whole year”, we wind up with an incredibly generous upper-end estimate of 24 million practicing Christians in all Russia.

        On the other hand, defining “practice” narrowly as attending services weekly, there are roughly 25 million Catholics, 48 million evangelical Protestants, and 16 million “mainline” Protestants in the US.

        Which means the US doesn’t just have more practicing Christians than Russia total, it has more practicing Christians per capita than Russia, even after defining “practicing” quite broadly for Russians and narrowly for Americans.

  7. It would be astronomically convenient for the main temptation to break ranks with the EU/US/NATO foreign policy wonks to just accidentally go away. Now the shivering hungry Euro-peons stuck under the feudal bureaucracy can’t throw their supposed leadership out, stop dicking around in Ukraine, and turn their gas and industrial economies back on.
    It’s too useful to beleaguered power-mongers who need to force a continuous escalation to have been a pure accident. Add a touch of SCADA hacking to keep both Germany and Russia from having real readings from the lines, and maybe a clever team of psychopaths could force an “accident.” Maybe. Or a couple of charges on timers. Or any number of remote engagement options. The end result still helpfully takes away de-escalation options, keeps the peasants in line and prevents a fracturing of the less willing members of the alliance.

    1. Funny how you talk about “Power Mongers” while ignoring the man who has stated quite clearly that he wants to recreate a major Empire..

      Funny, also, how you talk about “escalation” while ignoring the same man’s history of invading his neighbours, and talking up a nuclear response if he is thwarted.
      Ditto a man whose excuse for his most recent invasion is that his victims might join a DEFENSIVE treaty that would prevent him from doing what he has just done.

      There are plenty of villains to go around. Let’s just not get so wound up about one set, that we give a free pass to the others.

      1. Said defensive treaty was enacted to counter a Communist regime that ceased to exist some 30 years ago. Since then, it has defensively expanded itself right up to the borders of the current regime. Everything else you have said is correct, minus the reflexive insistence that NATO is pure of motive. I am reminded of the quote “the louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons”.

        1. Yea, nothing that’s happened this year supports the idea that NATO is still needed to counter russian aggression./s

      2. I would suggest you compare the number of nations russia has invaded versus the number of nations the US invaded. I think the ratio is on the order of 100 to 1for the US.

    2. I’m going with Occam’s Razor, and saying hydrates did the deed.

      “Never put down to Enemy Action what can be ascribed to simple carelessness…”

      I appreciate the technical explanation, Lawdog! I am an Engineer by trade and KNOW how people can screw up, by the numbers!!

      1. Indeed. Individuals can be intelligent. Groups of people can be abjectly stupid. And amongst that group, you will find the most clever of idiots.

  8. When a gas line rupture can cause a 2.3 richter scale boom, I will believe this bullshit. That 2.3 boom is equal to 100,000 tons of dynamite. As to 17 hours apart, no big deal, and who benefits form this, USA and their nefarious agenda. There was USA war ship just prior to the explosion, and the USA military is the only outfit that as the capability to do remote underwater at a distance. When you denigrate Russia for poor maintenance, you show you are completely uninformed. Because #2 was brand new, and had not been used yet. Thanks for STFU!

    1. Ok…. so you are arguing that the saboteurs used thousands of tonnes of explosive , when all the militaries that MIGHT be involved, have ample experience in cutting through armour plate with charges weighing a tiny fraction of that?

      Placing those charges unnoticed, in one of the busiest pieces of ocean in the world…. and then setting them off 17 hours apart, just so anyone who is really interested in potential sabotage can find this multi-thousand-ton device before it goes off?

      Convince us that anyone would want to do it that way.

      1. Whereas natural gas explosions, especially when started under a pressure shell (like bazillion tons of water over the hole and explosion,) can and do get very frisky, up to ‘a-bomb’ levels of big boominess.

        It’s like grain dust. 100lbs of grain dust in an empty grain silo can launch pieces of said silo quite far once aerosolized grain dust catches fire. Big bada boom from only small amount of ‘explosive’ powder.

        One of the big concerns when LNG carriers became big business was what would happen if some terroristas or whack-a-doodles got ahold of said LNG carrier and blew one up in a harbor. How much damage from multi-multi-metric-tons load of LNG in one big fuel air explosive?

        1. Care to explain where huge amounts of oxygen for a natural gas explosion _under the sea_ and _inside some steel tube_ (where oxygen is purposefully kept out of) is supposed to be coming from?

          1. You can get an underwater explosion from gas, like what happened to the oil/gas platform in the Gulf.

      2. One theory I read was that it may have been hit with a torpedo, which would be a much bigger explosion than diver placed explosives.

      1. A leak of heavy than air gas in a naturally occurring depression in an oxygen rich environment. Natural gas is obviously lighter than water and there’s no oxygen present. Besides that you could have had a point.

        1. It was only equivalent to 500 kg of dynamite. You don’t even need an endothermic explosion for that, the high pressure within the pipeline bursting a section when that ice plug hits a bend at hundreds of miles an hour will do it.

      2. At Brenham the methane escaped and formed a large cloud, where the methane was mixed with air, then at some point the cloud encountered a spark source or a flame, which resulted in a massive explosion. Free oxygen was available, which is not the case with a pipeline, or under the sea.

      1. According to your link, energy was 1/20th of the nordstream explosion, was primarily a fire cloud, and again occurred in an oxygen rich environment. So again, nothing in common with the event we are talking about.

    2. Swedish experts calculated the explosion to have 100kg TNT equivalent. Not 100 tons, not 100.000 tons. 100kg (~200 pounds).

      1. A new container being described as never having any decent maintenance? A new container never even put into service compared against an older one with EITHER good or bad maintenance, but a history of gas flow?

        Interesting, indeed.

  9. Thank you Law Dog, I had assumed hostile action based on what I was hearing about the near simultaneous occurrence of the “explosions” and the low probabilities of that being coincidence. Turns out they weren’t as simultaneous as I thought. Also what safety analysis professionals call “common mode failure” would account for both events. My expertise was in analyzing hazards associated with nuclear facilities not gas pipelines. Your explanation makes more sense than anything else I’ve seen so far. And yes having spent some time analyzing Chernobyl, never underestimate the ability of Russian apparatchiks in Moscow or Kiev or where ever to f*** up dangerous systems in the field. Couple that with Sergei Ivanovich being conditioned to blindly follow orders regardless, and as you say, it’s a day ending in “Y”.

    1. Oh, there’s so many ways the Russian system can screw things up! Ivan showing up utterly pissed. Pytor getting so pissed he doesn’t show up at all. Karl being an utter incompetent, but he’s got a good ‘roof’, so he can’t be fired. Someone sold off the replacement parts for pocket money. Someone else spent the maintenance budget on a new dacha. We got the materials, but it’s typical tofu dregs chineseium. And onward…

  10. I realize it’s a pedantic point, but Chernobyl wasn’t about maintenance, it was a not-well-engineered experiment.

    More relevant to the topic, given the self-destructiveness (and sheer stupidity) being exhibited by the western .govs I just can’t discard an intentional act.

    There are unmanned underwater drones that would have minimized the rush of being caught “running dirty”.

    1. AB….
      II may make a “pedantic” point in return, it is this. Stupidity and self-destruction is not – and never has been – limited to “Western Governments”

      Yes, the technology exists…. all around the world, owned by every country with extensive offshore oil and gas production. The technology to.put big holes in pipelines is owned by almost everyone who has ever wanted to destroy enemy armoured vehicles. The pipes are soft in comparison.

      A refusal to examine the alternatives does not help you to build a case.

    2. You don’t need an unmanned underwater drone. Scuba divers have operated at this depth in the 40s with the very first generation equipment. So all you need is the military grade explosives, timed detonators, a boat that can carry 2-3 people to the site and two professional scuba divers.

  11. I see that the Russians are so “desperate” to sell gas into Europe, that they are threatening to restrict or cease deliveries via the Ukraine pipeline.

    They have a contractual agreement to pay the Ukrainians for use of the pipe through their territory, have refused to pay what they owe, and would rather play tough than accept independent arbitration.

    Yep, they REALLY want to sell gas and they REALLY need the money from those sales…. only they ain’t acting like it.

    1. They aren’t going to pay the Ukrainians anything, ever.

      They do want to sell gas to Europe but the price is going to be reducing support of Ukraine. They can’t get that price until winter.

  12. What if there were a couple of Methane hydrate plugs and sabotage. What would that affect a hydrate plug when there is a sudden loss of pressure, upstream or downstream?

  13. I’m a mechanical engineer and of course I got curious about a couple things.
    .
    First, what is the total volume of the pipeline? It’s over 50 million cubic feet. Land based pipelines typically feature cutoff valves and portal to insert maintenance equipment. Whether such features were incorporated in Nordstream I cannot find.
    .
    What would a methane hydrate plug weigh? Methane hydrates weigh less than water. The best I could come up with was a density of 57.2 pounds per cubic foot. A 4 foot ball of methane hydrate would weigh about 8 tons. Think of that hitting a bend in the pipeline at 200 mph.

    1. You may want to check your math there… A four-foot ball would weigh a bit under a ton — you’re off by a factor of eight. Not that a one-ton ball really would be any less bad. My guess is you used diameter instead of radius for the volume of a sphere.

      Diameter of ball – 4 ft
      Radius of ball – 2 ft
      Volume of sphere – (4/3)(pi)(r^3).
      Volume of 4 ft ball (radius of 2 ft) ~ (4/3)(3.1415)(2^3 ft) ≈ 33.5 cu ft
      (33.5 cu ft)(57.2 lb/cu ft) ≈ 1916.2 lbs which is a bit under a short ton (2000 lbs).

      If I use the diameter of 4 ft in the equation instead of the radius, that gives me a result of 15329.6 lbs — your value of approx 8 tons.

      If you want to throw the creds down — “I’m a mechanical engineer…” — double-check the work. We may find that similar rigor, if one can describe it in that manner, was applied to the engineering of this pipeline.

      1. What could possibly go wrong? Top engineers have planned for every eventuality. Top. Engineers.
        Fail-Safe was supposed to be about American incompetence and arrogance, but every report out of the former Soviet Union about disasters is the result of Soviet and Russian graft-induced incompetence and arrogance . KAL 007, the Russian radar operator who did not believe the Americans were attacking them with a handful of missiles, the Aral Sea ecological disaster, and even the failure to plan out the exercise that became the Chernobyl disaster are what come to mind, but I am sure there are more.

  14. Interesting perspective, thanks for that!
    The “coincidence” of both Biden and Nuland saying Nord 2 would be stopped if Ukraine was invaded AND the convenient timing of the Baltic Pipe opening make it hard not to strongly consider sabotage……

    1. Coincidences do happen. And the closeness of the timing of the explosions could just be explained if the materials and tech used for both were the same, making the processes that caused the explosions work at about the same rate. Two fuses lit at the same time when the gas stopped flowing.

      1. The gas has never flowed in nordstream 2 ad was inserted nearly a year ago. GAs stopped flowing in nordstream 1 at the end of august.

    2. When last we noticed, Ukraine was invaded over 7 months ago.

      So they waited until now because the saboteurs rowed there from the States? Or what?

      1. Ukraine was previously worried about germany’s reaction to permently cutting off germany’s natural gas supply. They recently changed there mind that risking german and the rest of europes extreme unhappiness was worth the benefit.

    3. In case noone noticed: NS2 was indeed stopped, it never went into operation after finishing. But it was filled with gas.

      Stopping doesn’t nesseccarily mean “blowing it up” – some people have seen too many bad movies, I think.

    4. Biden/Nulan were clearly talking about political tools to stop it.

      They have worked really hard to build a European coalition that is critical to support Ukraine. Why would they tear that apart by getting caught sabotaging unused pipelines? Why not wait till the war is over if they don’t want them ever used?

  15. Lawdog, I grew up in overseas oil fields also. Do we know each other? Venezuela, Argentina, Mexico, Iran, UAE, Libya, Sudan, Indonesia, Ecuador, Algeria?

  16. The only thing that doesn’t make sense to me is the explosion part. I get that Natural Gas is flammable and even explosive under the right conditions, but those right conditions necessarily involve oxygen in the proper proportions.

    Too little oxygen in the mix and there is no explosion.

    I have a hard time believing they’d pump the pipelines with the perfect natural gas/oxygen mix to be explosive and I’m pretty sure the Baltic Sea doesn’t contain the right amount of oxygen in its water to facilitate an explosion.

    Maybe the term “explosion” is being used hyperbolically here and they’re simply talking about the act of the pipeline rupturing or bursting as an “explosion”, but if they actually were explosions in the traditional sense, I don’t see how they could have occurred in a pipeline, under the sea where there is very little oxygen, without help.

    Not saying Lawdog is wrong, I’m no expert on any of this, just raising the question that popped into my mind immediately.

    1. Tatp, the common home brew explosive that terrorists like to cook up and methane hydrates are quite similar in that they explosively sublimate when the proper (or improper as the case may be) conditions are met. And those conditions range from the expression on your face when inserting the blasting cap to the leakage rate on a block valve. Ask any terrorist bomb maker to count to ten on the fingers of both hands. He won’t be able to.

    2. I probably shouldn’t have included the Diesel Effect section, but I was feeling pedantic.

      Think of “explosion” in this instance as a violent rupture caused by sudden over-pressure due to disassociation of solid hydrate into a gas.

      Or, a solid mass of hydrate weighing many hundreds of pounds traveling over a hundred mph, encountering a bend in the pipe, and smashing through.

      1. LawDog, no it was a valid inclusion. That high pressure also increases temperature rapidly, and considering there is oxygen in hydrates, then I could see through to there being a violent exothermic reaction before the pipeline walls failed. Especially if any overpressure relief systems weren’t operating correctly.

        1. The diesel effect wouldn’t need to cause combustion. All it has to do it heat the hydrate up where it is no longer stable and rapidly turns from a solid to gas. This is a major change in volume and could cause a pressure spike high enough to rupture the pipe,

      2. But that mass traveling through the pipes would surely leave a trail of damage that would be picked up by the investigation, right?

        Though it wouldn’t rule out such events having been helped to happen. It should be possible to find solid blocked parts of the pipeline with sonar, would it? And maybe even trigger decomposition by directed sonar pulses?

      3. Hello All.
        The one thing nobody has talked about, is a pressure spike.
        Take a large chunk of a liquid, push it really fast, then stop it.
        The pressure wave will break the pipe.
        You hear this in your house. Run a faucet wide open, shut it quickly. Its called water hammer. If done with high pressures on a large scale it will be very loud.
        I can see the operators trying to clear the line. the only thing they have for reference is a pressure gage at there end. First the pressure goes up, till the plug starts to move. Then the plug lets go. They see a pressure drop. They increase pressure to get back to proper levels. Then the plug hits a corner (the sea floor is not flat you will have corners) and stops. Shock wave travels back up the pipe, to meet the increasing pressure from the other end. Bada bing bada bom. Much head scratching in the control room. The pressure went to 0. The flow went open discharge. They point fingers. Then one of the thinking ones says lets try it with the other pipe and see what happens. I’ll let you do the math.
        Thank you for your time.
        MC

    3. You can get water to explode under the right conditions. Look up Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosions – aka BLEVE.

      With water, they’re also known as Boiler Explosions

  17. A logical explanation and the responses still show that some people will believe it’s a sabotage event despite evidence of a contrary possibility.

    Thanks for your brilliant description of a possible event.

    1. And others are willing to discount sabotage.

      Learning about methane hydrate I am willing to accept it as a possibility.

      Looking up info for:
      pipe pressures pre-incident
      gas flows
      in the area in question, are the bends elbows or slow curves (radius)

      internet searches:
      methane hydrate
      methane hydrate in gas pipe

    2. Has Lawdog said it could NOT have been sabotage; or merely educated us as to the possibility or likelihood that he feels it was not sabotage. Just because we’re NOT paranoid does not mean someone is not out to get us!

  18. Interesting explanation–plus it’s consistent with Donald Rumsfeld’s admonition to “never attribute to conspiracy that which can be explained by incompetence.”

  19. I hope Lawdog has the right of it. Botched maintenance on a pipeline is never a small event.

    Pessimistically I sadly wouldn’t be suprised if this was an US op. The current administration in particular has demonstrated a stunning lack of foresight regarding the consequences, actions thereof. Couple with that with some of the comments made by Biden and I would rate the possibility of US action higher than a RU one.
    Should that be true the consequences would be dire.

    Still I think poor maintenance is a much more likelier culprit than intentional sabotage and Lawdog provides a excellent article to lay out as to why this is so.

  20. My only question is, “if there was an explosion, what was the oxidizer?”

    There are of course scenarios described above that did not require ignition.

  21. What makes you think the Russians do maintenance on the pipelines? My understanding is that the actual pipelines are privately owned , primarily by German investors. The Russians have a minor interest in them. So it is more likely that the Germans are responsible for maintenance.

    Secondly, since it was two INDEPENDENT pipelines built at different times involved within hours of each other, the odds of it being accidental drop precipitously.

    I spent many years in the petrochemical industry, and I think the odds of this being an accident are just about zilch.

    I understand the impulse to avoid unpleasant conclusions, but I think your coons are barking up the wrong tree in the wrong forest. We have a government of war criminals who are practicing international terrorism against civilian infrastructure. They deserve to hang.

    1. The pipelines were majority owned by Gazprom, who until recently controlled both ends – I believe Germany took control of their end quite recently. But it was a multi-country project.

      The article was super interesting, but it does miss one possibility. He writes –

      *The Recommended Best Practice to clear a hydrate plug is a vvveeerryyy slllooowww depressurisation from BOTH ENDS, SIMULTANEOUSLY.*

      It’s then blamed on Russian maintenance. But an alternate theory might be that the Germans were trying to extract as much gas as they could at their end by depressurising the pipes.

      1. As far as I know, due to the sanctions, german companies completely wrote off their investments into Nord Stream 2 so it was russian only at the time of the incident.

    2. The odds of an accident occurring within a relatively short period in the two seperate pipes are not low if the same stupid things are done at the same time to both pipelines.

      Which seems not improbable.
      Same Company.

      1. NordSteam 1 went into operation in 2011.
        NordStream 2 not officially in operation at all. (Finished in Sep 2021 — brand new, barely needed maintenance yet. Hadn’t actually operated except in testing?)

        Apples, meet oranges?

        (I’d also ask about WHY the ‘explosive depressurization events” did NOT “just happen” to occur anywhere too close to the newly finished Polish/Norwegian pipeline? Better insurance policy?)

        1. >Finished in Sep 2021 — brand new, barely needed maintenance yet.

          According to Nord Stream’s own website:

          >Construction of Line 1 of the twin pipeline system began in April 2010, and was completed in June 2011. Transportation of gas through Line 1 began in mid November 2011. Construction of Line 2, which runs parallel to Line 1, began in May 2011 and it was completed in April 2012. Gas transport through the second line began in October 2012. Each line has a transport capacity of roughly 27.5 bcm of natural gas per annum.

    1. “Leading causes for the event are Siberian trap volcanism and the emission of greenhouse gases with consequent global warming.”

      There we have it again: Russia is responsible for everything.

      Just jokin.

    2. Yep, but still then global warming by that.

      Fun fact: We had 5 mass extinction events, 1 space impact, all others climate warming.

      Oh, going off topic.

  22. I’m a pipeline industry guy but not an engineer. One question I’d ask before going down this road is whether Nord Stream 2 had methane in it at all. It had not been commissioned. Pressure testing etc is generally done with something non-explosive like nitrogen. If you’re going to idle a pipe you’re generally going to pack it with nitrogen to prevent corrosion, accidents, etc. I can’t think of a reason why methane would have been introduced into and kept in that line, but you never know. I did see one article that said the pipe was filled with “technical gas” which can mean nitrogen.

    1. At least one of the two had methane in it, the space monitoring of methane concentration showed major uptick at that location (then blown to the NW).

      1. I think one of the pipes had been commissioned then idled but one had not ever been commissioned. The commissioned pipe likely had methane in it. Perhaps the one that had not been commissioned had methane it, but I would wonder why that would be the case if it did. Obviously though a pipe full of nitrogen isn’t going to blow up because of methane hydrates. Doesn’t mean it can’t rupture I suppose, but it’s also a brand new pipe so wouldn’t expect it to happen.

      1. Yes, I’ve seen a number of articles that seem to imply Nord Stream 2 had methane in it but often it seems like it may be that journalists don’t know enough to get it right. “Stagnant gas” is not a very specific or standard industry term. Methane is a gas, nitrogen is a gas, etc. Anyway don’t mean to derail the thread over something that may not be correct, I had just been wondering about why there would be methane in the pipe when I saw your article.

        1. The first rupture was on Nordstream 2, the second in an area affecting both pipelines. So if N2 was filled with nitrogen, then that would seem to leave only sabotage as an explanation. I’ve seen a news article that claimed both pipelines were filled with natural gas, but journalism. (https://www.foxnews.com/world/nord-stream-pipeline-blasts-likely-explosions-not-earthquakes-seismologist-says).

          The Wiki article (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2022_Nord_Stream_gas_leaks) shows the locations of both events at or very near bends in the pipelines, which is consistent with LawDog’s hypothesis.

          Another thought, I confirmed (with a retired SF officer friend of mine) LawDog’s comment that the 17 hour gap between the two events made sabotage less likely (my friend’s comment: “A basic principle for doing bad things to bad people is to do them quickly and get the hell out of there.”) But. What if N2 was filled with natgas and had hydrate plugs, as described. Some unknown party blows up the pipe at location 1 and the sudden depressurization causes a hydrate plug further up the pipeline to break free and race towards the breach when it hits a bend in the pipe, causing event 2, which apparently ruptured both N1 and N2. This is obviously rank speculation, but I think it fits with the known facts (as does LawDog’s analysis). My engineering career was cut short in college by the Introductory Physics for Physics Majors class, so I would love the more technically savvy folks here to point out what I am missing.

          1. I think, if my speculation on how event 2 occurred is correct, then it points to sabotage as the source of event 1. If there were a plug closer to the Russia side of the pipeline than where event 1 occurred, then wouldn’t that have been depressurized first? Assuming the pipeline was being unilaterally depressurized by Russia, I don’t think that can be the cause of event 1 if there is still a plug on the Russia side of event 1. That suggests either two separate accidents or sabotage at event 1, with a following accident.

            I think.

    2. Rupture a high-pressure nitrogen tank, and although there is no energy added by chemical reactions, the result is just like an explosion. This “tank” was much bigger, 4 feet in diameter and miles long.

  23. Thank you Law Dog for this detailed explanation. So, it seems it’s either Russian sabotage or Russian incompetence. Reviewing the war actions by Russia, incompetence is a strong contender.

  24. Point well taken. Unfortunately, Germans built and have maintained the pipeline. They do not pencil whip anything. I understand your reasoning but I am afraid this is a bit too convenient for too many interested people to be an accident.

  25. What chaps my butt, is that the Bidet admin threatend to do this very thing. If this is the actual issue (and man, you do make a great case for it), the Ruskies could STILL blame Uncle Sugar. It’s like the Bidet admin took the blame IN ADVANCE. I swear, it’s like they are CURSED or something.

    1. Biden has never, ever threatened nordstream 1. And it is not true he ever threatened to destroy nordstream 2. He threatened to end it and that goal was in fact achieved when Russia invaded the Ukraine exactly as promised.

  26. Certainly the engineering questions discussed here are important, though I am entirely unqualified to evaluate any of them.

    That said, Biden’s clear statement that “we will bring an end” to Nordstream just won’t go away.

    Short clip (here and elsewhere):

    https://rumble.com/v1lp7zb-biden-we-can-stop-nordstream-ii.html

    The full original speech from the official White House site on Youtube; the statement above is at about 11:20.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKoPA3M7x2o

    Official White House transcript:

    https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/02/07/remarks-by-president-biden-and-chancellor-scholz-of-the-federal-republic-of-germany-at-press-conference/

    Judge the significance for yourselves.

    1. He said nordstrem2. He has never said anything about nordstream 1. And His threat was already fully carried out by Germany last February.

    2. Biden’s statement does not *have* to go away.

      You have to realise that Correlation does not equal Causation.
      Especially when the consequences of sabotage and being found out , or even strongly suspected , are severe.

    3. No significance.

      Why would he work so hard to build a european coalition that is critical to keeping Ukraine alive only to destroy it by sabotaging a pipeline that was already stopped and another he never “threatened”?

  27. Wait… do you mean to tell us that those shiny high-tech Russian pipeline maintenance robots in that one Bond film aren’t real?

    Overall, I wish people with subject-matter expertise had the ears of the rulers on both sides of the Tinfoil Curtain. Could cut way down on the saber-rattling, and maybe on worse things. But calm, technically-correct explanations seldom serve to sell emergency powers.

  28. I just found your site. It was bookmarked before the first scroll. Not only do you write logically, you’re also entertaining. It’s so nice to meet you.

    1. Definitely go get Lawdog’s books. DON’T be drinking while reading or you’ll baptise the book/screen!

  29. I see you have deleted my previous comment without posting it. Since my comment was nothing but complimentary, I’m left to conclude that my nickname is putting you off. Would it help if I explained that the nick comes from my original net computer…a 486 on dialup? Hubby christened me with that nickname twenty years ago and I didn’t have sense enough then to veto it.

    I’d have sent this privately but could find no way to do that outside Facebook. I don’t do social media.

    In any event, I’ve pled my case. I look forward to seeing my comment restored. I am not your enemy.

    1. Right.

      Because when conducting a top-secret operation that could start a nuclear war, you want to do it with a ship the size of a World War II aircraft carrier, with 3000 people embarked, as part of a three ship US naval task force, because no one would ever put two and two together when two pipelines rupture in three places just 20 miles away during a regional war.

      BTW, there were Russian ships nearby too.
      https://www.newsmax.com/newsfront/russia-navy-ships/2022/09/30/id/1089799/
      Like always, in that region.

      So…what’s the second-best guess you’ve got?

  30. So having had a complimentary comment rejected I’m evidently now automatically banned from posting anything.

    Why would you do this to someone who was thrilled to have found your site? Maybe the fact that there’s no way to contact you without a Facebook account provides a clue.

    So my bookmark has been deleted. That’s a shame because I enjoy what you write and I think you might have enjoyed what I had to say. Unfortunately, what I now have to say (and believe me I will say it as often as appropriate) is that you’re mean to newbies, illogical in your monitoring, uncaring about feedback and unresponsive to attempts at communication.

    ‘Bye.

    1. never attribute to individual onus that which can be adequately explained by mass action and systems overload.

    1. Your first comment got caught up in a mass blacklisting of oiks who apparently just showed up to curse at me.

      Sorry about that, it has been corrected.

  31. Let’s investigate further. Where would water collect, which I gather is a prerequisite for methane hydrate? At the low points of the pipeline. If you take some of the planning docs for nordstream 1, then you can see a local low point seems to be pretty much where the rupture occured. Doc here: https://docplayer.org/52842376-Kapitel-4-projektbeschreibung-ger.html (in German though, doesn’t matter). Depth profile on doc page 113 (PDF page 17) and map showing the location north of Bornholm where the rupture happened to correspond to a local low point at ~-90m (page 118, PDF 22).

    So that would match. Immediately arising question: why not at pipeline kilometers 500 or 600, where it’s even deeper and that are both closer to Russia, from where the lowered pressure would have come, according to the explanation given above.

    Any thoughts?

    1. Thanks for this info!
      Aren’t the plugs also a temperature issue? And who knows where the water inside the pipes will gather.

      Maybe the plugs there also moved but there was no bend in the pipes nearby?

      And maybe, oh hell, it turns out that the pressure drop was caused from the german side…then the closer plugs would move first.

  32. Interesting article but I think it gets some facts wrong. North Stream 1 was in use until the beginning of September. Both pipelines consist of two pipes. So it would be 3 explosions, 2 of those at the same time occuring in the span of 17 hours. Seems unlikely even if Gazprom attempted maintenance

    1. Assuming the pipes are running in parallel very close to each other, that doesn’t seem unlikely at all. The heat and vibrations from one explosion could very well trigger a plug to come loose or explode in a nearby pipeline, if it’s already being vented.

      Besides, there’s now evidence of a fourth rupture. I can’t find any more information about it, but what i did read sounds more like a small rupture in one of the destroyed pipelines. This doesn’t fit the sabotage theory at all… But I could imagine it to be a small rupture caused by a freed methane plug, which then contributed to pressure loss and to the relase of a big plug.

  33. Methane only explodes in a methane/air mixture of 5% to 15% methane. I doubt that the pressurized pipeline mixture contained at least 85% air. Also pipelines are serviced via “pigs” which are machines sent down the pipeline for various maintenance reasons. Russians didn’t need to explode the pipelines by applying external explosives. They had access to the pipelines and undoubtedly had a variety of service “pigs” at their disposal. An “inside” job shouldn’t be discounted!

    1. I’m just an old OKIE country boy and I’m reading all of these, I presume, highly educated folks talking about an “explosion” requiring a certain ratio of fuel air mixture or some energetic material.

      It seems to me that we need to go back to the basics.

      What is the definition of “explosion?” Here is one.

      “explosion
      ĭk-splō′zhən
      noun”

      “A release of mechanical, chemical, or nuclear energy in a sudden and often violent manner with the generation of high temperature and usually with the release of gases.A violent bursting as a result of internal pressure.The loud, sharp sound made as a result of either of these actions.”

      FROM:
      The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.
      More at Wordnik

      Then there is this from Wikipedia which seems to reflect what I was taught in High School Chemistry and Physics in the late 1950s:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Explosion

      I was taught there are five causes of “explosion.”
      (1) Astronomical, (2) Chemical, (3) Electrical and magnetic,
      (4) Mechanical and vapor, (5) Nuclear

      However, I think the most common generally accepted types of explosion are (1) Chemical, (2) Mechanical, (3) Nuclear, which are explained here:

      https://www.delta-net.com/knowledge-base/health-and-safety/emergency-response/what-are-the-different-types-of-explosion/

      I agree with LawDos’s explanation (not completely ruling out sabotage but giving it a very low likelihood) and classify this explosion as Mechanical most likely caused by excess vapor pressure. Kind of like a hot water heater being over pressurized by steam and the pressure relief valve fails to release pressure.

  34. very good explanation of something i didn’t know about. but i’m sure you can see that it’s just as reasonable to assume the u.s. is very interested in keeping the europeans on board through the winter. removing the temptation of making some kind of side deal when the freezing germans take to the streets makes sense to me too. if i were russia, i’d be looking forward to the end of all this mess and take good care of my cash cow

  35. Well, I doubt that the “Diesel Effect” is of any relevance here (also beside the lacking oxygen):

    If a methane hydrate plug is moving fast due to a valve opened on one side, and that valve is closed again, then to give a considerable temperature increase due to the gas that is beeing compressed due to the moving plug it needs some high enough compression ration.

    Given that the speculation is that the valve opening was at the russion side, and the ruptures were around Bornholm, there is so much pipeline volume between the place of rupture and the valve that I doubt any reasonable compression ratio. (And if we talk about compression between a moving and a stationary plug: If the stationary plug is blocking the gas flow enough to account for enough compression, it would also block the gas flow enough to lead to a slow decompression in the first place, not leading to a fast bullet.)

    The other mechanical and thermodynamical problems you mention do make sense to me.

    1. When a rapidly-moving plug with considerable momentum, meets a stationary plug with considerable mass…. then the momentary pressure between the two is typically very high indeed.

      Shooters know that one of the easiest ways to blow up a gun is to fire a bullet down a blocked barrel. It’s not “just” the pressure behind the moving plug, but the momentum of the plug itself .

      1. > When a rapidly-moving plug with considerable momentum, meets a stationary plug with considerable mass…. then the momentary pressure between the two is typically very high indeed.

        This I tried to lay out: If there is another stationary plug in the way, it would either block the depressureisation behind it, so that there will be no plug moving behind it, or it is so leaky that no high pressure builds up, maning we only have the mechanical impact energy but not a high pressure building up before the two meet.

        1. OK, well, there can also be cases in between where this indeed could happen. E.G.: Slow depressurisation through an “almost-plug”, the plug behind takes some time to get loose, then the pressure is already low, and the “almost-plug” is tight enough to allow for high pressure build up when something comes along fast.

          So I withdraw my both comments about the “Diesel effect”.

          The only thing we still not have is enough free oxygen for self-ignition, “only” left to non-chemical thermodynamic and mechanical effects. ([@LawDog also wrote further above](#comment-26003) that *he should have left out the Diesel effect.)

          1. sheesh. Think. Plug A moves in direction of plug B because loss of pressure upstream of B?
            When did plugs form?
            What were the pressure readings on either side of the turbine, expected and actual, before/after shut down?

  36. Thank for a rational scientific based explanation.
    Was in the USSR long ago and as you say, things probably aren’t any better.

  37. Hanlons razor:
    “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”

    Sounds fair for me, as Hanlons razor rules way more often than it doesn’t.
    Thanks for explaining your thesis!
    And I don’t need any explosion, the power of a solid pressure wave due to suddenly evaporating methane hydrogene (or a resulting vacuum spot on another place) may be enough to kill a pipeline like made by an explosion.

  38. This is extremely interesting, but not two, but three (of four) pipelines went boom, both of NS1 and one of NS2. Within 17 hours, what are the odds? OK, so you say it might have been triggered by someone messing with the system from the Russian end. But, could that happen without the station on the German end noticing? They should have registered something, right? Like pressure changes?

      1. perhaps… but only if it’s completely, 100.0% closed, right? I’m not sure what a hydrate plug looks like…

  39. Question:
    First NS 2, tube A breaks. Then 17 hours later both tubes simultaneously NS 1. Then 3 days later NS 2 tube A again. This contradicts the theory of sabotage: who would bombed the same tube again 3 days later? But: Are these breaks not too close in time for this theory?

    1. Wait – the fourth leak was detected days later, I’ve heard of no evidence thet there was a a fourth explosion, only two.

      So it could have been caused by the only known two explosions and only been discovered later.

      Only if on is staying with the explosive theory.

    2. Stephen..
      If, as we suspect, the kabooms occurred as a result of engineers pushing buttons or turning taps at the Russian end , then it seems probable that the same engineers from the same company, responded to the same orders from the same management under pressure from the same politicians.

      It’s not surprising that the same results occurred within the same period…. or that flow-on affects resulted in further failures.

  40. I have a casual association with the Permian Basin oil business and the brief shutdown of the major pipelines there caused significant damage, in April. That with American maintenance. Imagine, for the sake of argument, multiple plugs and a leak in between two plugs. Lots of bad things happen with cascading effects.

    Pipelines, regardless of who made the segments, must be welded. Perfect pipe, with a crap weld, is going to be a problem. If you are flowing gas continuously it is a different problem, but not one of a pressure differential. Back in the day one of the European energy companies did a deal with the Soviets that they could have the oil and gas they prevented from leaking out of the Trans-Siberian Pipeline. That proved to be profitable.

    History may not repeat, but it often rhymes.

  41. Hey Lawdog;

    I honestly believe that this was as they say “the holes in the Cheese lined up, and oops”. Your assertion to me makes sense from what I know of how the Soviets er Russians think, some of them are craftsman, whereas others are shortcut artist and cutting corners is a way of life because “Safety is an option, it isn’t mandatory” .

  42. I’m still going with it was sharktopuses that fell out of the sharknado generated by the hurricane that did it. Seems like something they would do.

  43. Did I get this right: under the assumption of methan or water ice plugs it is likely that someone for some reason (cleaning the tube, saving and storing the gas, leak…) lowered the pressure on ONE side of the plug which caused the plug to dart through the pipe when the pressure difference got too high.

    Then either it hit a bent or it smashed into something else, manybe another plug or some liquid. The kinetic energy was enough to cause a seismic impulse of 2.3 – and the next pressure loss was inevitabel, causing the next plug crash.

    When cleaning the pipe from plugs, only the slow and simultaneous pressure release on both sides of ONE plug can solve this…but what if there is more than one plug?

    1. More than one plug, sounds like a problem.

      The shooters amongst us know that a classic cause of gun blowups it when a bullet is fired through a blocked barrel.

      Moving bullet meets blockage, causing a massive pressure spike as the gases between are compressed .

  44. Please, ‘splain this to the folks who are convinced it was either
    (A) a magical Ukrainian dive specops team; or
    (B) the US Navy because an ARG was operating in the Baltic at the time.

  45. My son commented that he thought it was the CIA.

    I asked him if it was the same CIA that didn’t predict that North Korea would invade South Korea, didn’t predict the fall of Saigon, was caught by surprise when the Soviet Union collapsed, didn’t catch the 9/11 attacks before they happened,, and was caught totally by surprised when Kabul fell to the Taliban TWICE.

    Still waiting to hear back from him.

  46. I’m probably late to the party, but I’m growing sceptical of the narrative that millions of Europeans are going to freeze this winter due to lack of LNG.

    Firstly, the Germans are clearly showing that their storages are at around 90%, and estimating that they have enough to get through winter with some restrictions.
    https://www.bundesnetzagentur.de/EN/Areas/Energy/Companies/SecurityOfSupply/GasSupply/start.html

    They are not on the verge of collapse and surrender to the Russians, as inconvenient as this may be for Putin-apologists and the American-sabotage narrative.

    We have already seen what European governments are willing to do if there is a choice between large numbers of citizens dying, and “business as usual”. The Covid lockdowns, as misguided as they might be, demonstrated that those governments are willing and able to shut down business and transport in order to “protect” people. If/when gas shortfalls require energy restrictions, the most probable response – based on past actions – will be to force industry, transport and “non-essential activities “ to bear the brunt.
    You average German may be required to turn down the heater, throw an extra doona on the bed instead of the electric blanket, and wear thermal underwear and an extra cardigan indoors. There will be the occasional case – much publicised in the media – of a pensioner being found “frozen” , without reporting that they actually died of a heart-attack, or from the flu caught while huddling indoors. But this is Germany we are talking about. If the shortfall was expected to be disastrous, the orders would already have gone out. “You VILL BE TURNING OFF ZE WARMENTHING.. SHNELL!”

    Keep in mind that everywhere cold winters are normal, it is also normal for everyone to have clothing suitable for cold weather. It may be uncomfortable wearing “outdoor” clothing indoors, but it isn’t lethal.

  47. Couple issues here.

    1st is timers. There are such a thing as timers if you want to stick with the demo charge theory. Since someone wanted this to look like an accident timed to happen after the drop in pressure then you just set the explosions at separate intervals. Pretty easy to do.

    2nd A Hack. The system could of been hacked to cause the drop in pressure in the pipe lines. Not sure if the pipe lines ran on the same system, would be surprised if they did since they didn’t get set up at the same time. But if you like law dogs theory, you can’t rule out a hack of the system that caused the drop in pressure that set off the latter explosions in both pipes.

    3rd Is Timing. This does not address the timing. Timed with the elections, timed with Norwegian Pipe Line coming on line and you have ex Polish official saying “Thank You USA”. One thing almost certain is this was not happenstance unless God has a sense of humor.

    4th is the timing of this story. Backlash has is spilling out everywhere. Good time to propose this would of been right away. Others had proposed unstable pipes from the beginning, but our officials have been mum on the issue and still are as far as I know.

    Other then that a lot of other little incidentals point to sabotage. Not the least of is motive and who’s to gain. You heard all that elsewhere.

    1. Para…
      Most of the “incidentals” just run in circles.
      The sabotage theory is based on speculation, based on more speculation and without real regard for probabilities.

      Correlation is not proof of causation.

      One of the principles that used to be valued in our nations was “innocent until proven guilty”. You appear to want to convict on the basis of “could have”, and dismiss all evidence of innocence.

    2. Oh and BTW.
      One thing you don’t want to do, if you are using multiple destructive devices….. is set them off at such long intervals that you run an increased risk of people finding them first.

      How stupid would it be to try and hide what you are doing, by making it more likely to be discovered?

      Like I said, your arguments just run in circles.

      1. The point that I tried to make further back, is that if the Germans are mot about to die en-masse, and are not talking about surrendering to the Russians, then the main argument regarding American benefits from sabotage, falls apart.

  48. Interesting take. I know nothing about pipelines, but lots of information which seems plausible.

    All makes sense, except the exquisite coincidence with the reason changes in the war in Ukraine and geopolitical issues in Europe. Nope, someone blew this up on purpose. And as shoddy as Ruskia is, they’ve been running the pipelines for years.

  49. Thank you for this excellent blog post. I’ve previously read a number of articles and tweets and comments arguing over who could be responsible for the sabotage and what could be their possible motives. Yes, it could be the Russians or the U.S. or the Ukrainians or … or … etc. But all those explanations sounded pretty thin, each with lots of counter-arguments as to why it wouldn’t make sense or would be an extremely risky gambit.

    Still, everyone was saying that it had to be intentional destruction by someone. Nobody even considered that it might be an accident. Consequently I never even considered that possibility.

    Your technically detailed and knowledgeable article persuades me that an accident is by far the most likely explanation. Given a choice between evil conspiracy theories versus stupidity or incompetence, I’ll generally bet on the latter. I could be wrong — maybe it really was Putin or Biden or Zelensky — but this makes much more sense.

  50. Hahaha “maintenance budget”

    Germans pay $50 million for maintenance.
    Ivan pockets $40 million.
    $10 million goes to the lowest bidder who “strictly meets the tender specs”
    Bidder spends $5 million on actual maintenance.

    1. Bingo!

      Way too likely. Indeed, almost certain.

      Great article by Lawdog and very informative comments.

  51. I don’t know much about pipelines, but I don’t see how a pipe with 5 inch thick steel cares what the water pressure is at that depth. The pipe does not compress.

  52. I remind myself of a Jack Russell barking up a tree after a possum. It doesn’t achieve anything, but it keeps him entertained.

    But mulling this over, it seems that the conspiracy-theorist have a tendency to contradict themselves.
    At one moment, they insist that the globalist warmongers have Europe firmly under control and are well on their way to starving and freezing the majority to death. At the next, they are wailing that Europe was on the point of surrendering to Russia and only the pipeline blowing up, prevented it.

    Which then raises the question regarding how said globalists are going to achieve economic domination with no-one to buy the things they produce… and how they will achieve military domination with no wealth to build weapons and no healthy bodies to use them.

    Evil supervillains always make such fatal mistakes.

    “Big, hairy snowballs”, yeah!

  53. Gazprom looks at timelines for reintroducing product to market thru those pipes.
    Sees income stream flow restarting beyond-near-term at best. Figures: insurance will be better bet.

  54. Someone (or ones) in Russia decided to get out of Gazprom stock on Friday (see tweet below – link has graph). If someone were a senior executive at Gazprom and just read an AAR on attempted pipeline cleaning the night before this would fit nicely

    9/30 – Someone in #Russia dumped just USD $13 million in Gazprom stock and the price instantly crashed by 17%. Cleaned out all the limit buy orders down to 189.42 rubles from 231. At $80 billion market cap, that’s a $13 billion crash. #Liquidity Russian style. House of Cards.

    https://twitter.com/igorsushko/status/1575961430108434432

  55. Two questions:

    The author mentions a plug a couple feet wide—the pipelines in question here however are just 4 cm in diameter.

    How would methane explode w/o air? How could it get to the ocean floor?

    1. The Nordstream pipes have a diametre of 48 inches. Not sure where you’re getting 4cm.

      Any explosion would be mechanical in nature. It would be several hundred pounds of solid methane hydrates (approximately the density of water ice) hitting the wall of the pipe at between 100 and 180 mph. No oxygen required.

  56. What does the depth of the pipeline have to do with the pressure inside the pipeline? I think the operator of the pipeline determines the pressure, depending on other factors.

  57. As a pipeline engineer all over the world for the last 40 years I’m sorry but this is Total and complete rubbish.

    Hydrates form in gathering pipelines where there is a relatively massive amount of water, free water. Transmission lines carry
    ETREMELY DRY GAS. Hydrates CANNOT FORM. That’s half your dissertation shot to hell. I won’t be bothered with critiquing the rest.

    1. I finished reading. Apologies for my too quick reaction. After all, this is a possible sabotage case.

      Hydrates would probably form in the higher pressure region. If they did manage to travel such a long way and reach the 170b design pressure limited pipe, it sure might go bang there. Yes. Its theoretically possible. The 170 barg pressure limit begins at 675 km from the pipeline’s inlet. 545 km from the pipeline’s end. I do not know exactly where the leaks occurred.

      1. Dennis, I don’t mind a check, it keeps me honest. I am glad you’re here, because I need the thoughts of someone with recent, actual pipeline experience:

        The gas in Nord 1 has been stationary for five weeks +/-; and the gas in Nord 2 has been stationary for at least six months, maybe closer to a year. What are the hydrogen sulphide issues in non-pigged pipelines for that length of time? Specifically, on the welds?

        Don’t worry about the previous comment, I grew up in the oilfield, and have a pretty thick skin.

        1. Thanks.
          I would think H2S is a generally longer term problem, as it does take some time for it to work its way into weld or pipe metal. The short term problem might be the sulfuric acid H2S makes when in contact with water and corrosion that might result. These pipelines are internally coated with epoxy to reduce friction, which could also slow the effects of corrosion. I would not normally expect corrosion to happen so quickly in a tx pipeline. Rapid corrosion is more common in gathering systems.

          Back to the hydrate concern. Assuning water was purposly introduced downstream of the compressors, it’s still a bit problematic, because stopped flow would not drive hydrate plugs, which would favor formation in a high pressure, low temperature region, to the lowest design pressure section of the pipeline 675km downstream. It would have to have been done sometime during operation. Not knowing where a plug formed would not make it easy to know where it would come to rest when flow stopped. Assuming it plugged the pipeline, it would be difficult to say where it would do so. If it did plug the pipeline, backpressure would increase, but hard to say by how much before it could break free again. There is lots of pressure in this pipeline, probably enough to keep it moving, thereby not building backpressure, but it is theoretically possible.
          Another possibility of intentional damage might be simply by overpressuring the pipeline from the compressor station. The low design pressure of the last segment (170 barg) might allow some opportunity to exploit. The compressors can reach at least 220 bars. With the pipeline’s outlet closed, its pressure could be run up to 220b for its entire length. At 220b the 170b max pressure section would be about 30% over that max limit, still within the safety margin, but just barely. I estimate potential pipe yield starting at 236 bars. That pressure might be reached by running the compressors at overspeed, as 10% over max operating pressure is often within a compressors rated capacity. Still, reaching yield would only put the pipe in its deformation zone and not necessarily cause a failure, but it would be on its way. I think this a far fetched scenario too, but what isn’t these days. It would be interesting to know the nature of the damage to the compressor that recently caused the pipeline to go into partial/complete shutdown.

          1. Inertia forces of hydrate and pigs moving in a pipeline are small. Offshore pipelines do not use fittings, such as elbows. They won’t travel down the curve from the lay barge to the ocean bottom. As such bends are made by curving the pipeline as the barge slowly changes its location. . Radii of these curves are in the thousands of foot range, hence changes in direction occur slowly and no significant inertia forces are developed in such large bends as might happen in a typical 45 or 90° elbow.

  58. We must find out if 160 barg in a 48″ pipeline can make 2.2 on a Richter sale reading, or is its equal to 500 lbs of TNT. Something tells me it could reach 500 lbs of TNT, but I don’t have any idea of what the Richter equivalent might be.

    1. Dennis…
      There are other examples of pipeline blow-ups which have produced massive explosions, even when the initiating agent was nothing more than a flame.

      The seismic event does not indicate the use of a massive demolition charge, and no sensible saboteur would try to use a large amount of conventional explosive when every military in the world – and many civilian blasting contractors – has shape-charges and EFP-weapons capable of defeating the armour on tanks. Many of which are man-portable.

      The seismic shock is an interesting artefact, and proper analysis might tell us whether the big shock was a cause or a secondary effect, but it doesn’t prove anything by itself.

      1. Reluctant to cite wikipedia, but this article on Explosive-Formed Penetrators gives some idea of the principles involved.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Explosively_formed_penetrator

        It isn’t complex technology. It predates WW2 and was first used in the petroleum industry. Improvised EFP weapons have been manufactured in the Middle East and used to knock out Abrams MBTs.

        If we are going to speculate regarding sabotage, we have to be realistic about ways, means and who possesses them. …. and the answer to the last is “lots of people”

  59. Lawdog, I have an mech. engineering background but not so much in field of fluids/ht. There’s one part of your scenario that I can’t wrap my mind around. That is the crash of said plug into the pipe. There are no elbows and such in these pipelines, at least in these underwater stretches, am I right?

    I could see a lot of wear on the pipe wall, for the high centripetal force needed to resist the inertia as it travelled in the bends. I don’t understand the crashing aspect. Is the plug not in continuous contact with the wall, at least with the outboard walls in the curves?

    You do seem to know your s__t, so please enlighten me. I didn’t write this to argue – I really want to know, and I feel this may be a stupid question even.

    1. Not a stupid question. Think about a chunk of solid ice 4 ft in diameter, and about 4 ft in length. Depending on velocity, this plug can — in theory — negotiate some fairly gnarly bends. Not 90 degrees, but some tight ones.

      Now, increase the length to 8 feet, same diameter. Things start to get a little hairy. Bends can be negotiated, but not nearly as tight.

      Increase length again to 12 feet. At 100 mph, even a slight bend can’t be negotiated by a solid chunk of ice.

      Does that make sense?

      1. How small a radius bends do you figure they have on those lines? (I don’t know – again, just asking. I’ve only seen videos of them lowering the welded pipe into the sea.)

        Right, so the bends can’t be negotiated, but wouldn’t the plug just break (due to its momentum and bending forces one it), or slow way down? Obviously the quicker it comes to a stop, the higher the force on the pipe, which you say could rupture it.

        OK, going over this helps. I’m still of the opinion that it’d have to be fairly coincidental for both pipelines to have the same problem within that time frame. Even so, thanks for the great explanations.

        BTW, I did read a library book on about 5 or 10 different examples of interesting technology (that’s why there’s no way I could remember the name), and one of the chapters was all about the pigs that get sent down the pipeline – I wish I could remember the example – I think it was the Alaska oil pipeline, obviously a different situation with a liquid rather than gas.

        1. PS…
          People are getting hung up on the idea that if this happened more than once, it can’t be an accident.

          My response is that if you put multiple drunks in multiple cars with no brakes, you would expect multiple crashes.

          In other words, if you have a scenario in which the same conditions exist, and the same bad decisions are made, then we should expect the same results. It’s not an “Act of God” type accident. It’s not random.

          Cheers… Peter.

          1. Peter, I didn’t notice this reply but responded to you on this statement lower down in this thread. To add an explanation to my point, let me use your auto brake example, slightly modified. (That is, these drunkards, were their brakes unusable from day 1, would have never left their driveways, as with a completely missing segment in all the pipelines giving the same problem right away, were the compressors started simultaneously.)

            This would be more like a bad design in the braking system in which too much water gets in, the lines which then corrode and braking is lost*. Picture the Nord Stream pipelines and equivalent things when you read this.

            That poorly designed brake system is installed the same way on all the cars. Even before, were you to do a lab test for corrosion-based rupturing, would all fail at nearly the same time? Nah, materials very slightly and dimensions do too. You get an average and a std. deviation and go from there.

            In the real world in the car though, there’s lots of factors that would vary the time by quite a ways when one guy’s foot would go to the floor versus the others’. Slightly different amounts of water get in over the years. The path to the weakest (thinnest) point is slightly different. Maintenance was done ever-so-slightly differently. There’s so many others I’m sure.

            That’s what I mean by it being a coincidence for different spots experiencing the same failure at relatively nearly the same time, unless one somehow triggers the other.
            .

            * A friend pushed his pedal down on the highway and had this happen, but then the Toyota was coming up on 300,000 miles! (And, you’ve got to flush them occasionaly.)

    2. I’d say if there are full dimeter plugs existing, there might also be some, like frozen puddles, which just sit there and don’t move while the big one comes speeding at them? They would work like a wedge.
      No bend necessary.

      Additionally, the “big ones” will probably not look like a wine cork but they might start thin end end thin. So these parts will likely break off – and form a wedge or a bulk of broken ice pieces which burst outwards when getting friction to the wall?

  60. hold on mutton head, where is this pressure coming from to make hydrates ?
    The gas only sees atmosphoric pressure, it is within a pipe, which shields it from the water pressure, 300 ft of atmosphere is
    NOTHING

    what crap you expouse, how much did they pay you ??

    1. Compressors are near St Petersberg Russia.
      The pipeline was reportedly shut in at around 100 bars, some 1500 psig.
      Hydrates can begin to form at 100 psig and 40°F.
      The problem is not press and temp. It’s the presence of water inside the pipeline. It should have been dry gas inside, but I had to admit (above) that introducing water near the compressor station is a possibility.

  61. Inertia forces of hydrate and pigs moving in a pipeline are small. Offshore pipelines do not use fittings, such as elbows. They won’t travel down the curve from the lay barge to the ocean bottom. As such bends are made by curving the pipeline as the barge slowly changes its location. . Radii of these curves are in the thousands of foot range, hence changes in direction occur slowly and no significant inertia forces are developed in such large bends as might happen in a typical 45 or 90° elbow.

    1. I tried to add this on via EDIT.

      Let’s see, at 200 mph, going along a quarter mile radius curve, the slug will feel about 2 g.

      I could get really into it, calculate minimum curve radius based on the pipe dimensions and strength (got to add your bending stress to your PV stresses) also.

      Then there’d be a limiting factor of maximum moment about a joint (the weld). That’s something I wouldn’t be able to calculate – it’s probably more stringent than the general pipe stress limit on bend radius.

        1. OK, it’s been hard for me to get the numbers of the web – wiki has a lot of garbage, it seems. Based on an annual rate of 27.5 billion cubic meters per year per pipeline (divide by 2 for 2 pipes per route) from the Nord Stream site, and at 100 atm*, I came up with a much bigger average fluid speed of 150 ft/sec. Since I am not in the business, I can’t do DIMS on this (does it make sense?)

          Anyway, the speed aside, were pressure to build up on one side, it could get the slug going a lot faster than the normal speed of that gas. I was going by Mr. LawDawg’s number as far as speed of the slug goes.

          .

          * I assume Nord Stream means 27.5 m*3 of NG at STP, right?

  62. A couple questions: I get what you say about the problems with two incidents of sabotage spaced 17 hours apart, but the separation of only 17 hours, in separate pipes, does raise the question of how the first would lead to the second? I don’t believe they’re in the same housing. How far apart are they? They weren’t built at the same time, were they? That would suggest at least slightly different technology, therefore different parameters.

    As Dennis Adams mentions, how would a failure of this sort reach 2.2 on the Richter scale? And I haven’t heard what sort of reading the subsequent explosions / failures, etc. would have been. Also reports seem to indicate that there have been four or more explosions. I can imagine that such a drop in pressure could form new hydrate plugs in fairly short order, but I can’t imagine that there would be enough pressure in the lines to cause such failures, even if the plugs formed almost instantly.

    1. First…
      If the cause of the explosions is bad decisions, then the results are not random. The same bad decisions should be expected to give the same bad results.

      Secondly…
      There is no reason why there should not be multiple hydrate plugs before the first explosion, If the conditions are right for one plug, it’s highly likely that the same conditions can have the same results at multiple points.

      As I said, it’s not random.

      1. “If the conditions are right for one plug, it’s highly likely that the same conditions can have the same results at multiple points.”

        No, it’s not very likely. We’re talking about 17 hours out of months/years. Things don’t happen like that. No matter what physical process involved you’re talking about, there’s differences here and there that would make it a coincidence – that is, not unless one thing triggered the other.

  63. I’m a retired engineer several times experienced with pipelines including offshore marine pipelines AND ALSO with Russian oil & gas and offshore development. No room here to cite the many examples; and I’ve worked with their good technical people. It was interesting to see what they were in-fact still able to do in the Soviet period and more recently even with very limited material, equipment, and supply lines

    If it were just one break: I’d first suspect an anchor drag, but when more than one break especially in short order: perhaps some really stupid activity there… or perhaps unstable seafloor land-slides or seismic activity to provide the failure triggering stress.

    Most such accidents and disasters are not from just one simple thing. They are just about ALL from unforeseen daisy-chains of contributing causes All this listed here combined in many possible daisy-chains of: Poor steel quality and QC,typical Russian thin-pipe wall design, poor welding quality, improper laying technique, allowing movement, possibly poor external coating, lack of anodes for external corrosion control, age, no flow, therefore no pigging (cleaning), no proper application of internal corrosion inhibitors, and winter is approaching so
    maybe even an attempted restart-up & Overpressure

    And YES: gas hydrates are very tricky but usually just cause plugging problem sin deeper and much colder ambient temperatures. Explosive failure I dunno,

    IF really must include politics: Ukraine is fighting a war for national survival; and they are not all innocent sweethearts and puppy lovers.

    Biden has done many stupid things over four decades even before he became old & demented … and his handlers still lead him to do a lot of stupid things. But I don’t think he did this; nor would any responsible military. And it makes no sense for Russia. I’d say it’s a technical situation.

    Really wild-ass unsubstantiated final guess: Islamic terrorists with energy to sell on world market?

    1. Rod….
      Thanks for that.

      I’d suggest that internal politics can have as much influence as international politics.

      Speculation on Russian interests should reflect Putin’s interests in the short term, not the interests of the Russian people in the long term . (Case in point, the Ukraine war is not exactly great for the average Russian)

      Speculation on causes should also include what some politician – Russian, American or otherwise – might order those below him in the food chain, to do…. and their ability to resist those orders.

      Putin’s record for getting away with illegal stuff – particularly killing his opponents – appears to eclipse that of Biden Inc.

      1. Deciding to trust Biden Inc. when he/they/it say “it was sabotage”, but not when they say “but we didn’t do it” is inconsistent and lousy analysis.

        We simply have no good reason to trust them on any factual statements, even in the negative. (We can’t trust them to lie consistently). All we can do is note that they are saying what they “think” is in their interests at the time.

        Anything more is wishful thinking on our part.

        1. Perhaps the question to ask is, what *would* Biden (or whoever drives his teleprompter ) say if they knew that the US wasn’t responsible?

          Does anyone really think that they would let Putin off the hook by proclaiming it’s an accident?
          The more anyone claims that Biden lies, the more they need to accept that his words mean very little.

          …… yeah, I try to think through my own arguments. Sometimes it leads to new trains of thought.

    1. It’s not “mental contortions”.
      It’s logic and common-sense.

      If some witch-doctor claimed that he could put a curse on his enemy, and the enemy had a car accident, would you assume he did it? Or would you check for other factors, first?

  64. Doesn’t the fact that Nordstream 2’s line “B” is still intact also give credence to the accident theory?

    If you’re going to sabotage something, you’d blow up all 4 not 3 and leave one working.

  65. There could be no “explosion” or “dieseling to cause an explosion” in the pipeline. There is no oxygen in there. Now a sudden melting of a hydrate plug may have caused something like a water hammer, but nothing was flowing. Could hydrate like ice expand and crack the line (remember the NG already was at least at the pressure of the sea floor).

  66. If a methane hydrate plug were to start moving, even not all that fast, I’d be surprised if there were not at least some friction against the pipe walls. Even if a curve were very gradual, it would seem logical that the leading and trailing edges travelling the outside of the curve would rub with greater pressure than their opposite side counterparts. With what has been said by those who seem to be most familiar with this, that higher friction area frozen methane hydrate is likely to begin to sublimate as it warms. It seems logical that a warmed bubble of expanding methane could then begin to form behind the leading edge – how far back I don’t know, but it wouldn’t seem to matter. What would matter is that a bubble of expanding gas is going to push the other side of the plug towards the opposite wall, perhaps roughly in the middle of the plug. (That is to say, the outside leading and trailing edges have more friction; but the center of the inside curve edge also has more friction. A bubble of expanding gas on the outside would push the inside of the plug even harder into the inside wall.) At some point, that small bubble of warmish gas (and it need not be hot, just warmer than the ambient water temperatures at the bottom of the Baltic) is going to start sublimating part of the interior of the plug next to it. I can easily see a chain reaction of warming going on – methane hydrates do that. So, I don’t think the plug needs to be moving very fast, or the curve in the pipe all that tight, to start a mechanically explosive sublimation event.

    But I note that I haven’t seen a picture of burning gas on the surface of the sea at the explosion sites. Now, natural gas from undersea pipelines has sure done that, plenty of times. Ask Pemex – https://metro.co.uk/2021/07/03/fire-erupts-in-middle-of-the-ocean-after-underwater-gas-leak-14867865/ Fancy pictures, hunh? And if, as so many of the good folks posting about these explosive events posit, it were to have been done with chemical explosives (dynamite, C4, RDX, take your pick) in whatever shape you wish to suggest (ribbon cutting charge for RDX, earmuff charges for dynamite or C4, perhaps) it seems almost impossible that the burning explosives would NOT have set the gas in the pipeline on fire. But…no fires. No images of the Baltic burning, folks. Lots of bubbling gas, yes. But no fires. I do have some small experience with blowing things up, and typically, if there is a large amount of flammable material (like, for instance, natural gas, or even liquid gasoline) at the site there where the explosion occurs, it gets involved in the chemical reaction. Crude oil (so long as it is not gassy), and heavy oils (bunker C, even diesel/number 2 home heating oil) are generally not volatile enough to do much more than catch fire. Lighter fluids (benzene (AKA gasoline), naphtha, acetone, the whole host of lighter, more volatile chemicals, they tend to add to the explosive force of the blast. There was a time when USCG licensed tankermen held one of two ratings – based on their ability to deal (or not) with the explosive nature of the lighter chemicals. Natural gas is right up there at the top of the list. So, if the explosions were caused by chemical-based explosives, how come no burning gas on the surface of the sea?

    I tend to think Lawdog probably called it right – sounds like mechanical explosions (explosive decompression by thermally induced sublimation, resulting in pipeline ruptures) rather than chemical explosions such as would be expected from a military trained sabotage effort.

    Stranger things have happened.

    1. You make one think..
      These pipes are supposedly lined, to reduce friction and corrosion. Lining is synthetic. Hypothetically, mechanical action of a hydrate plug on the pipe wall “could” tear it off to the point where it builds up and jams the whole thing tight.

      Admittedly, my inspiration for this thought stems from a novice shooter who decided to clean his rifle barrel with toilet tissue. It wadded tight, and the more he hammered, the tighter it got. There was much jocularity at his expense on certain forums.

      But yeah, material packs tight in tubes under certain pressures.

  67. An interesting line as it regards to the accident theory in a Reuters article today. This is referencing Nordstream 2’s line B which makes it seem like it did not have gas in it at the time of the ruptures.

    “If a decision is made to start deliveries through Nord Stream 2’s line B, natural gas will be pumped into the pipeline after the integrity of the system has been checked and verified by supervisory authorities,” it said.

    https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/gazprom-nord-stream-leaks-stop-gas-supply-could-resume-single-line-2022-10-03/

  68. Exploding 1 pipe length of 42 feet with 48″diameter at 1500 psig is roughly equivalent to 124 lbs TNT and a 2.2 Richter event.

  69. Another source of pipeline bending, and a reason for the water and hydrates to accumulate one place rather than another: the varying depth of the sea floor. A local (or global) minimum in depth might explain both the location of the plugs and the higher rate of the bend around the minimum.

  70. @lawdog
    There are also about 140000 mainly WW2 mines floating around the southern baltic and the gulf of Finland. The area around Bornholm is a medium risk area. If some of those got snagged in a trawl it could also explain the explosions. By loosening from the trawl (1st) explosion and by scuttling the trawl (2nd) explosion. Yes highly unlikely, but still in the realm of possibility. Especially if the trawler was engaged in ‘poaching’

  71. I do not understand where the oxygen or similar element to achieve a natural gas explosion comes from. Please explain.

    1. Nordstream pipelines when flow is stopped balance out at up to 160 barg along their entire length. Some reports say it was at 106 barg when it shut in. No oxygen is necessary to have a pressure explosion.

  72. Fascinating. I used to run a diamond recovery plant in Namibia and we had to use sea water as Namibia is a desert. We ran six days a week, Sunday was a maintenance day. We also shut down for planned maintenance once a week and had multiple units so that if anything critical broke down we could carry on working. It was a constant battle to keep maintenance up to scratch, any constraint on the budget would mean a cascading sequence of problems which meant that planned maintenance got cancelled. Nonetheless it was essentially a simple plant and so I can see why a pipeline could go badly wrong is not looked after.

  73. So are you saying methane hydrate can spontaneously combust on its own with no ignition source? I read a few other papers on the subject and found nothing that indicated this. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.