How It Works
The Nord Stream gas pipeline is an epic structure that offers a glimpse at the advanced engineering needed to fuel the modern world
How an enormous underwater gas pipeline was built in the Baltic
Right now the planet’s demand for energy is growing at an exponential rate. Each year more people are born and more homes are built to accommodate them, with each new property needing to be supplied with electricity and gas. This hunger for energy is ravenous, and looking forward it seems to show no signs of abating. To combat this ever-rising need for power, creative new energy-generating technologies are being implemented, many with renewability at their heart. Progress has and is already being made in this pursuit, with wind farms, marine turbines and solar power stations increasingly contributing to national energy grids. This is undoubtedly the best way forward for our warming planet. Unfortunately though, right now the demand for energy far outweighs that being inputted by renewable sources, with a very real deficit needing to be addressed. For Europe that deficit is being met by the Nord Stream twin pipeline system, a 1,224-kilometre pair of gas pipes running along the bottom of the Baltic Sea. The pipeline links northwest Russia with northeast Germany and has the capacity to
transport up to 55 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year from the gas fields of Siberia directly into the heart of Europe. A second pipeline, Nord Stream 2, will double that capacity. Though it was expected to be operational this year, US sanctions have put a hold on construction. As you might expect, the pipeline is not without its critics. With a life span in excess of 50 years, the Nord Stream will see nonrenewable energy continuing to be spent for the foreseeable future, and due to the pipeline’s large capacity at an increased rate. In addition, due to the pipeline passing through 1,224 kilometres of the Baltic Sea, environmental organisations – including the World Wide Fund for Nature – have raised serious concerns regarding the project’s potential to damage or displace complex ecosystems and delicate marine habitats. While these environmental concerns are something we can’t ignore in the long term, there is no denying the fact that the Nord Stream is one of the most impressive engineering feats ever undertaken. On both small and large scales the project is centred around cutting-edge technology, such as an undersea station capable of housing 24 divers, advanced logistical systems like pipe-laying barges up to four times the length of a football pitch and supersmart electronics able to operate machines and vehicles hundreds of metres beneath the sea. Dive in and take a closer look at the Nord Stream twin pipeline system to find out not only how it was put together, but also – regardless of its non-renewable crutch – how it demonstrates just how science and technology can help improve the lives of millions and power future development.