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Mysterious blasts and gas leaks: What we know about the pipeline breaks in Europe

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Earlier this week, three separate leaks were discovered in two giant natural gas pipelines from Russia. The pipelines filled with the fuel and the ruptures created bubbles of gas half a mile wide that rose to the surface of the Baltic Sea near the Danish island of Bornholm.

Explosions were spotted nearby just before the leaks struck, and European governments have yet to identify the cause of the leaks in the pipelines, known as Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2. Political leaders in Europe and the United States have suggested this Incident was an act of sabotage.

Speculation has pointed to Russia, whose state-controlled energy company Gazprom is the main owner of the pipelines. A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov, dismissed allegations of Russian involvement as “stupid” and pointed the finger at the United States.

The situation bears the hallmarks of a spy thriller. But analysts say the damage to the pipelines could be a significant escalation of the proxy energy war that has been waged since the fighting began Ukraine – a struggle that could have serious consequences for millions of homes and businesses across Europe. Whoever damaged the pipelines may want to show Europeans that “nowhere is safe,” said Helima Croft, head of commodities strategy at RBC Capital Markets.

A view of the Lakhta Center business tower, the headquarters of Russia’s gas monopoly Gazprom, in St. Petersburg, Russia April 27, 2022. (AP/File)

The damaged pipelines are important links between Russia and Western Europe.

The two major pipelines were built to bring gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea.

Nord Stream 1, which became operational in 2011, was until recently the main pipeline for transporting gas to Germany – enough to supply more than half of the country’s annual consumption and still send some to its neighbors. The pipeline is approximately 760 miles long, most of it submerged.

Construction of the second line, Nord Stream 2, was completed last year and was intended to double those flows to create a large, modern line to north-west Europe. But it never became fully operational: the German government put the project on hold in February as Russia began invading Ukraine.

Even as European countries have scaled back their natural gas consumption in response to high prices and pleas from their governments, the fuel remains critical to heating homes and keeping businesses running.

None of the pipelines were actively transporting gas at the time of the incidents. Gazprom recently throttled Nord Stream 1 citing technical issues. Critics have dismissed the action as a political maneuver by Russia as fighting in Ukraine drags on.

The leaks could help Russia by driving up energy prices.

In a sense, disrupting the pipelines has no immediate purpose for anyone.

And on the surface, it’s unclear why Moscow would seek to damage facilities that have cost Gazprom billions of dollars to build and maintain. The leaks are expected to delay any opportunity to generate revenue from the fuel flowing through the pipes.

On the other hand, the natural gas market is unsettled, which is helping Russia by raising the price of its gas. On Monday, European gas futures prices fell by almost half from their August high. After news of the leaks, they surged nearly 20% to about €205 (or $191) per megawatt-hour, about five times the level of a year ago.

Gas bubbles from the Nord Stream 2 leak reaching the surface of the Baltic Sea in the area reveal a fault well over a kilometer in diameter near Bornholm, Denmark, September 27, 2022. (REUTERS)

After months of gains and volatility, energy markets had recently started to calm down as optimism grew that Europe could avoid shortages this winter by finding alternative supplies and filling up gas storage facilities.

The breaches could also be a reminder from Moscow that by maintaining their support for Ukraine, European countries risk sabotaging vital energy infrastructure. Experts have been warning of the danger of possible attacks for years. Any disruption could spell trouble, analysts said, as European countries that have depended on Russian gas, like Germany and Austria, have little margin for error.

Over the past year, Gazprom and Russia have taken steps, like changing flows in the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, that analysts say should increase political tensions and energy prices.

That incident has shaken markets because it makes it clear there is a “risk of disruption” for pipelines not controlled by Russia, said Massimo Di Odoardo, vice president of gas research at Wood Mackenzie, an energy consultancy.

The environmental impact appears alarming.

The damaged pipelines are spewing natural gas, which consists largely of methane, a key contributor to global warming.

More than half of the fuel in the pipelines had spilled by Wednesday, according to Kristoffer Böttzauw, head of the Danish Energy Agency. It could all be gone by Sunday.

The toll from the leaks could be equivalent to 32% of Denmark’s annual emissions, Böttzauw said, adding: “There are significant climate impacts because methane damages the climate many times over than CO2.”

Antoine Rostand, co-founder of Kayrros, which uses satellites to track methane leaks from oil wells and gas processing plants, estimated that the damaged pipelines had released an amount comparable to the methane emissions one day from the oil and gas industry worldwide.

Scientists hope that the gas that rushes to the surface and disperses into the atmosphere won’t have a major impact on wildlife in the waters around the leak.

The damage indicates explosive devices.

The pipelines are made of concrete-coated steel to withstand underwater pressure. In other words, it takes a lot of force to damage them.

“A gas leak of this kind is extremely rare,” said Böttzauw. “It is unlikely that an accident would result in three gas leaks within 24 hours.”

A painting showing the Nord Stream pipelines is displayed on a container near the Nord Stream 1 Baltic Sea pipeline in Lubmin, Germany, July 20, 2022. (AP/File)

Swedish seismologists on Monday discovered two separate underwater explosions near where the leaks were later identified. Both Nord Stream 1 pipelines were damaged, while only one Nord Stream 2 pipeline was ruptured, meaning that, at least in theory, gas could flow through the second pipeline.

Hans Liwang, a professor at Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology, said examining the size of the crater on the seabed and the damage to the pipes could provide answers about the size of the explosive charge and the locations of the explosions.

“We will probably be able to find out where this explosive device was placed by looking at the marks on the underside,” he told Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.

But he added that leaking gas could have blown away important evidence, particularly if, as some have speculated, the sabotage was carried out using underwater drones or divers.

Danish authorities said on Wednesday that a criminal investigation was underway to determine the cause of the breach. It is unclear how long it will take to repair the damage.

An official at a pipe-laying company in Europe said work could only proceed after safe conditions were in place, including removing any gas or seawater from the pipeline.

Western sanctions against Russia can also complicate cleaning and repair efforts because contractors may not want to do the job. In addition, Gazprom is no longer honoring its business obligations and contracts, so it is not clear who would bear the cost.

Other pipelines to Europe could be vulnerable.

Although Russia has curbed its exports, its natural gas still flows to Europe through Ukraine and other pipelines. If the war in Ukraine continues to go badly for Moscow, Gazprom could step up the pressure by reducing these supplies.

A network of other pipelines from Algeria, Libya and Azerbaijan all underpin the economies of European countries and could be vulnerable to sabotage along their vast lengths. Whichever actor hit the Nord Stream pipelines may have sent a message to Norway, which has replaced Russia as a major supplier of pipeline gas to the European Union. Norway is also an important gas supplier for Great Britain.

It may not be a coincidence that a line known as the Baltic Pipe opened from Norway to Poland on Tuesday. Conceived to reduce Poland’s dependence on Russia, it passes close to the leaks.

Russia attacked Ukraine’s energy infrastructure during the war.

Energy has become a battlefield in the war over Ukraine. Putin has already shown that he is willing to sever business ties with countries like Germany that have taken decades to develop in hopes of bending them to his will.

And as fighting rages on, Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has come under repeated attacks from Russia.

After Russia lost ground to a Ukrainian offensive this month, Russia unleashed a spate of rocket and rocket attacks on Ukrainian power plants and the country’s power grid. Also this month, a Russian missile landed just over 300 meters from southern Ukraine’s nuclear power plant, according to Ukraine’s state-owned Energoatom nuclear power plant.

Throughout the summer, Ukrainian officials accused the Russian army of targeting a stretch of high-voltage power lines connecting another nuclear complex, the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, to Ukraine’s power grid. They said the motive was to deprive Ukraine of power to the power plant.

Attacking pipelines could be another step on this path to energy warfare. “It’s clearly an escalation of the conflict, which is really scary,” said Rostand, the CEO of Kayrros.

Written by Stanley Reed.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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Bidens to serve Maine lobster to Macron despite Whole Foods ban over its danger to whales

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American Osetra caviar poached in butter lobster out MaineBeef and Californian wines are presented beforehand Emmanuel Macron for a state dinner hosted by the President Joe Biden for its French counterpaCentre County Report.

The Biden family and the Macrons will be paCentre County Report of a red, white and blue gathering at a pavilion set up on the South Lawn of the White House for the American president’s first state visit since he was elected to office in 2021.

The menu, released before dinner for 300 to 400 guests on Thursday, showed the gathering will eat shallot jam, a selection of tri-state cheeses, potatoes and beef, washed down with wines from California.

Newton “Unfiltered” Chardonnay and Anakota “Knights Valley” Cabernet Sauvignon, along with a Californian sparkling wine with French roots, Roederer Estate Brut Rose, are served to the gathering. For desseCentre County Report, orange chiffon cake and roasted pears with citrus sauce and creme fraiche ice cream are on the menu.

However, the inclusion of the Maine lobster is right after whole food announced his decision to halt sales of the delicacy due to threats to endangered whales raised eyebrows.

The grocery chain said it will stop selling lobster caught in the Gulf of Maine staCentre County Reporting next month over endangerment concerns NoCentre County Reporth Atlantic right whales get caught in fishing gear. Scientists estimate there are fewer than 350 NoCentre County Reporth Atlantic right whales left, mostly due to human causes.

The company’s decision follows changes in sustainability ratings for Maine’s lobster fishery by separate Centre County Report seafood watchdog groups.

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) suspended its ceCentre County Reportification of the Gulf of Maine lobster fishery in early November after the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s (MBA) Seafood Watch Program downgraded Maine lobsters to its red list.

Whole Foods said the decision to stop buying the lobsters was made to maintain its responsibility for sourcing standards set in 2012.

They dictate that wild-caught seafood sold in hundreds of stores must come from fisheries ceCentre County Reportified by the MSC or classified as “yellow” or “green” by the MBA.

“These third-paCentre County Reporty reviews and ratings are critical to maintaining the integrity of our standards for all wild-caught seafood found in our seafood depaCentre County Reportment,” the company said in a statement.

Whole Foods will stop sourcing Maine lobsters effective Dec. 15 but will sell the rest of its supply, the grocery chain said.

The controversial ban has sparked an outcry from Maine’s elected officials and the lobster industry.

Four members of the Maine congressional delegation issued a strongly worded statement criticizing the decision.

“We are disappointed by Whole Foods’ decision and deeply frustrated that the Marine Stewardship Council’s suspension of the lobster industry’s sustainability ceCentre County Reportification continues to impact the livelihoods of hard-working men and women along the Maine coast,” the senators said in a statement Susan Collins and Angus King and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden, and Maine Gov. Janet Mills.

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Asia’s factory activity shrinks as China lockdowns weigh on firms | Manufacturing

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Falling production underscores the darkening economic outlook for Asia in 2023 as China’s lockdowns upend supply chains.

Factory production fell sharply across Asia in November as slowing global demand and uncertainty about the fallout from China’s strict COVID-19 lockdown weighed on business sentiment.

The results underscore Asia’s darkening economic outlook for 2023 as lockdowns disrupt international supplies and fuel fears of a further slump in its economy, the world’s second largest.

Amid the pandemic containment, China’s factory activity shrank in November, a private survey showed on Thursday. The result implied weaker employment and economic growth in the fourth quarter.

Manufacturing activity also shrank in export-dependent economies like Japan and South Korea, and emerging markets like Vietnam, underscoring the mounting damage from weak global demand and stubbornly high input costs, surveys showed.

“Cooling market conditions, ongoing cost pressures and weak underlying demand, both domestic and international, were reportedly key factors contributing to the declines,” said economist Laura Denman of S&P Global Market Intelligence, which compiles the Japan survey.

China’s Caixin/S&P Global Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) came in at 49.4 in November, up from 49.2 in the previous month but still below the 50-line separating growth from contraction. He has now been below 50 for four straight months.

The figure followed dismal data in an official survey on Wednesday showed that manufacturing activity hit a seven-month low in November.

Japan’s au Jibun Bank PMI also fell to 49.0 in November from 50.7 in October. That was the first contraction since November 2020.

South Korea’s factory activity contracted for the fifth straight month in November, but the slowdown moderated slightly, possibly indicating the worst was over for companies.

Still South Korea’s exports in November suffered its sharpest annual decline in two and a half years, separate data showed on Thursday, hit by slowing global demand in key markets led by China and a downturn in the semiconductor industry.

Lockdowns in China have impacted production at a factory there, which is Apple’s largest maker. They have also fueled rare street protests in many cities.

The effects of China’s woes were widespread across Asia. Taiwan’s PMI came in at 41.6 in November, up slightly from October’s 41.5 but remained well below the 50 mark.

Vietnam’s PMI fell to 47.4 in November from 50.6 in October, while Indonesia’s slipped to 50.3 from 51.8, private surveys showed.

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ISIS leader killed during battle in Syria & terror cell announces name of new boss

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THE leader of ISIS was killed in combat, the terror group said.

That extremists have unveiled a new commander after Abu Hasan al-Hashimi al-Qurashi died in battle Syria.

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Islamic State fighters pose on the border between Syria and IraqCredit: Alamy
The terrorist group has confirmed its leader

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The terrorist group has confirmed its leaderPhoto credit: Getty

Al-Quraishi was selected to lead IS fighters in March before he was killed in an operation by the Free Syrian Rebel Army in mid-October, the US military said.

No American troops were involved in the operation, the county’s military spokesman said.

IS spokesman Abu Omar al-Muhajer confirmed the leader’s death in an audio message on Wednesday.

He said al-Quraishi was killed while “fighting enemies of God,” without elaborating.

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Al-Quraishi was appointed in March afterwards Joe Biden announced the death of Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi in Syria.

The US President said the leader blew himself and his family up after he used his own children as human shields in a bloody raid by US special forces.

He was blamed after former boss Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a similar raid by US forces in the nearby city of Barisha in 2019.

The jihadists have announced their newest leader as Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Qurashi.

The ISIS spokesman didn’t go into many details about the new boss, but said he was an “experienced” jihadist and called on all groups loyal to IS to pledge allegiance.

Hassan Hassan, author of a book on Islamic State, said the group has shrunk.

He said: “It doesn’t mean the group is finished, but at the moment they’re a shadow of their former selves, they’re hollowed out in terms of their leadership and their ability to execute attacks.

“They no longer have iconic, charismatic leaders and they haven’t launched any major attacks recently.”

The White House welcomed the news that al-Quraishi had been killed, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

Emerging from the chaos of civil war in neighboring Iraq, Islamic State conquered large parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014.

Former IS caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed an Islamic caliphate from a mosque in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul that year and declared himself the caliph of all Muslims.

Islamic State’s brutal rule, during which it killed and executed thousands of people in the name of its narrow interpretation of Islam, ended in Mosul when Iraqi and international forces defeated the group there in 2017.

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Since the peak of its power seven years ago, when it ruled millions of people in the Middle East and terrified the world with deadly bombings and shootings, the Islamic State has once again slipped into the shadows.

Its remaining thousands of militants have mostly hidden in remote hinterlands of fractured Iraq and Syria in recent years, though they are still capable of conducting significant insurgency-style attacks.

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