April 1, 2023

Last month, Finnish residents began reporting huge flames spewing from the Russian border. Satellite imagery detected a massive heat burst that turned out to be a Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant burning millions of cubic meters of gas that was supposed to be sold to European customers.

Sindre Knutsson, senior vice president of Norwegian research firm Rystad Energy, told sky news On Friday, Russians burned 4.34 million cubic meters of natural gas worth about $10 million a day, destroying enough fuel to supply 1.5 million European homes.

The burning took place at an LNG plant in the Russian town of Potovaya, lie in The northwest of St. Petersburg is close to the Finnish border. The plant is located near the compressor station of the Nord Stream 1 subsea pipeline to Germany.

Russia cut In late July, gas flow through Nord Stream 1 was reduced to 20% of its nominal capacity, completing a series of escalating restrictions that it said were caused by “technical issues” with the compressor turbine.

The Germans have accused Russia of cutting off their gas in retaliation for opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia supplies about one-third of Germany’s natural gas needs.

On April 9, 2010, Russian construction workers spoke on their mobile phones during a ceremony to start construction of the Nord Stream pipeline in Portovaya Bay, about 170 kilometers (106 miles) northwest of St. Petersburg, Russia. Germany's new government has found itself facing a host of problems related to Russia since taking office last month. Germany's foreign minister made a flight visit to Washington on Wednesday to underscore the German government's common position with the United States on Russia.  (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, file)

Russian construction workers speak on their mobile phones during a ceremony to start construction of the Nord Stream pipeline in Portovaya Bay, about 170 kilometers (106 miles) northwest of St. Petersburg, Russia. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovtsky)

“Gas is now part of Russia’s foreign policy, and possibly Russia’s war strategy,” accused Klaus Mueller, a German official, at a time when LNG prices were soaring across Europe.

Gas combustion at the Portovaya plant

Combustion gases at the Portovaya plant

The amount of gas emitted from the Portovaya station was so large that it seemed unlikely that it was the result of testing or construction, Knutsson said. The plant is new and is scheduled to officially start operations later this year.

A gas stove is pictured burning in Gaiberg, near Heidelberg, southwestern Germany, on June 24, 2022. (DANIEL ROLAND/AFP via Getty Images)

“The exact reason why the flaring occurred is uncertain as there has not been any proper communication from Gazprom or Russia,” he noted.

Knutsson added that the “flaring” of combustion gases at the Portovaya facility emits about 9,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air every day, a situation he described as an “environmental catastrophe.”

Other analysts have warned that such a large-scale burning would produce large amounts of soot, or “black carbon,” that would flow north and land on the Arctic snow, causing it to melt.

“I’ve never seen an LNG plant burn so violently. We saw this huge spike starting around June, but it didn’t go away. It’s been staying at an unusually high level,” said the University of Miami in Ohio. Satellite data expert Dr Jessica McCarty said, Tell This BBC on Friday.

Miguel Berger, Germany’s ambassador to Britain, said Russia may be destroying excess stocks because “they have nowhere else to sell gas.”

Industry experts note that keeping LNG facilities running and burning off product not shipped elsewhere is considered cheaper and safer than shutting down the facility cold and restarting it later.

Knutsson speculates that the Russians may want to see the vast amount of wasted gas clearly from Finland as a sign of Russia’s dominance in the European energy market.

“There is no clearer signal than this – Russia can lower energy prices tomorrow. This is gas that could have been exported via Nord Stream 1 or alternatives,” he said.

Russian state energy company Gazprom declined to confirm or discuss the gas flaring to foreign media.

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