There were leaks in the underwaterNord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipes. Natural gas is transported from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea. The leaks were likely intentional sabotage, according to officials. The motives behind the damage are still unknown.

The main component of natural gas, pressurized methane, was still present in the pipes even though they weren't transporting gas at the time of the blasts. A stream of bubbles on the sea surface can be seen from various satellites.

On September 20, 2022 a GHGSat satellite observed the area of the Nordstream pipeline break, and saw an estimated emission rate of methane of 79,000 kg per hour – making it the largest methane leak ever detected by GHGSat from a single point-source. Credit: GHGSat and ESA.

A constellation of high-resolution satellites was used by the private company GHGSat to measure the leak. According to a European Space Agency release, GHGSat tasked its radar and microwave satellites to get measurements at larger viewing angles and was able to target the area where the Sun's light reflected the strongest off the sea surface.

The largest methane leak ever detected by GHGSat was found on September 30 when the estimated emission rate was 174,000 lbs per hour. This image comes four days after the initial break and is only one of four points in the line. This amount of methane is equivalent to more than 2 million pounds of coal being burned in an hour, according to the company.

Monitoring methane over water is very difficult as water absorbs most of the sunlight used for methane remote sensors, according to the ESA. It is very difficult to measure methane concentrations over the sea at high latitudes because of this limitation. The cloud cover made it difficult to make satellite observations.

Methane is the second most abundant greenhouse gas in our atmosphere and it is not toxic.

The power of active microwave radar instruments is that they can monitor the ocean surface signatures of bubbling methane through clouds over a wide swath and at a high spatial resolution. This will allow for a more complete picture of the disaster.

The gas leak in the Baltic was characterized by the use of other Earth observation satellites.

On September 26, Planet Labs Planet Dove satellite captured an image of the Nord Stream Gas pipeline rupture in the Baltic Sea, approximately 20 km southeast of Bornholm Island, Denmark. Credit Planet Labs

The Baltic Sea was shown to have a bubbling mess from 500 to 700 m across the water's surface.

The area was seen by other satellites.

This radar image was captured on September 28 by ICEYE— the first New Space company to join the Copernicus Contributing Missions fleet. Credit: ICEYE
Gas leaking in the Baltic Sea on September 29, 2022 from one of the damaged Nord Stream pipelines seen bubbling up to the surface by a Pléiades Neo satellite. Credit: Airbus/Pléiades Neo.

As the gas was emptied, the diameter of the methane disturbance was reduced. The views from September 30 and October 3, 2022, are shown in the animation.

Nord Stream pipeline gas leak detected by Copernicus Sentinel-2. Credit: ESA.

There is a map of the region where the pipes are located. The consequences of this disaster remain even though the leak is no longer a threat.

Nordstream pipeline map with shipping traffic lanes. Credit: ESA