Safety Concerns Overshadow Europe’s First New Gas Link in Decades

The pipeline, along with new terminals in Poland and Latvia to receive shipments of liquefied natural gas and new regulations to increase interdependency and reduce barriers, is part of Europe’s broader strategy to loosen the energy monopoly once held by Russian state enterprises like Gazprom, said Benjamin L. Schmitt, a research associate at Harvard and former European energy security adviser at the U.S. State Department.

But even the most robust energy networks can function only if they are secured, he added. “Those are all key components to security of supply and a well-functioning market, but if you don’t have physical and cybersecurity to back that market up, you are going to end up with what are effectively statues,” he said.

Baltic Pipe is the third major gas line running under the Baltic Sea, along with the now ruptured Nord Stream lines. The Polish pipeline begins in the North Sea west of Denmark, where it branches off from the Europipe II line, one of a web of thousands of miles of pipeline carrying Norwegian natural gas to Northern Europe across the North Sea.

With the two Nord Stream pipelines now damaged, Russia’s most efficient means for conveying gas to Europe has been disabled. Although they were each filled with limited amounts of gas, neither Nord Stream artery was transmitting the fuel at the time of the attack, because Russia had shut off 1 and Germany had never allowed 2 to begin operation.

The suspected attacks on the pipelines alarmed NATO and European countries, which have increased their patrols on the Baltic Sea. The Polish company that operates Baltic Pipe, Gaz-System, said that together with Polish authorities, the undersea stretch of the new pipeline was under surveillance “on an ongoing basis by specialized operational services.” Gaz-System declined to elaborate.

Experts point to the vulnerability of all undersea infrastructure, which beyond the energy pipelines includes thousands of miles of communication cables that in recent decades have been strung across the oceans’ floors to connect a globalized world. Keeping it safe is virtually impossible, Johannes Peters, an expert at the Center for Maritime Strategy and Security at the University of Kiel told the German reporting collective RND.