Nordstream Redux: A Correction

"When it comes to a pipeline running natural gas under Russian (non)maintenance, an explosion means that it’s Tuesday. Or Friday. Or another day of the week ending in “y”. “But, LawDog,” I hear you say, “It was multiple explosions!”

Nordstream Redux: A Correction

The wise and venerable Lawdog offers a much more mundane and rational explanation of the evaporation of the Nordstream pipeline than the reports echoed here a few days back concerning a stealth attack by the US. This is not to say that such an attack did not happen but only as a caution to myself and others; a caution that reminds me yet again to, as the old saying goes, "Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by simple stupidity."

Of course, the other old saying about "the fog of war" holds true as well. Lawdog himself experienced this after the "discovery" of his "theory" brought him some extreme attention from some giants of the Right Commetariat such as Instapundit and PJM. This "attention" blew him right off the internet itself:

Not perzackly sure yet, but the initial shufti seems to indicate that both Instalanches, plus PJMedia, plus American Thinker, plus HotAir, plus Legal Insurrection, plus DailyKOS, plus …… apparently every Russian media outlet on the planet …
… smoke-checked the 250 Gigabyte data limit on my host.
I appreciate the enthusiasm for something I just threw together (apparently the DailyKOS writer wasn’t impressed with my writing style), but bloody damnation, guys.
Thankfully I have the absolute best Gentle Readers in the blogosphere, because they crowd-funded an upgrade with a quickness.
So. Looks like we’re back.

As of this morning it looks like LAWDOG has survived the tsunami of attention and is reasonably stable again. Here's the first section of his Nordstream thesis. It's a "theory" that makes more sense than most, including the one from Monkeywerk I offered a few days back. Still just a theory but one so compelling that I am compelled to share a section of it here. It should be okay if you click through to the whole now that his bandwidth meltdown seems, unlike the Nordstream meltdown, to have passed. . . .

From   Nordstream | The LawDog Files:

crosses self

“Hail Mary, full of grace …”

Ok, the Nord pipeline incidents.

Sigh. I shouldn’t do this, but …

I call them “incidents” for a reason. I grew up in overseas oilfields. I try to, by training, observe everything from as objectively neutral a viewpoint as possible.

In my experience when anything involving energy-industry hydrocarbons explodes … well, sabotage isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. And honestly, when it comes to a pipeline running natural gas under Russian (non)maintenance, an explosion means that it’s Tuesday. Or Friday. Or another day of the week ending in “y”.

“But, LawDog,” I hear you say, “It was multiple explosions!”

Yes, 17 hours apart. No military is going to arrange for two pipes in the same general area to be destroyed 17 hours apart. Not without some Spec Ops guy having a fit of apoplexy. One pipe goes up in a busy shipping lane, in a busy sea, and everyone takes notice. Then you wait 17 hours to do the second — with 17 hours for people to show up and catch you running dirty? Nah, not buying it.

The Nord pipelines weren’t in use. To me, that means it’s time for maintenance! Hard to maintain pipes when product is flowing.

Pipelines running methane, under saltwater, require PMCS* quicker than you’d think, and more often than you’d believe.

I would bet a cup of coffee that any of the required weekly and monthly checks and services since the Russians took over have been pencil-whipped. (See Andreev Bay 1982.)

They officially shut it down in July of 2020 for maintenance, and had cornbread hell getting it back on-line, and “issues” with maintaining flow throughout the next year; shut it down again in July of 2021, with bigger “issues” — we say “issues” because the Russians won’t explain what these issues were — and even more problems, including unexplained, major disruptions in gas flow in Dec21/Jan22; Feb 22; and April 22.

Yeah, there’s problems with those lines. And these are the same folks that PMCS’d Chernobyl.

So. They’ve got pipelines with issues that are currently pressurised (with highly flammable, if not outright explosive, natural gas/methane), but not moving product. It’s time to find out what those issues are.

And they blew up. My shocked face, let me show you it. Next time, tell Sergei to put out the cigarette before pulling a pressure test.

Is there a possibility of sabotage? Yeah. Especially in the current world situation — but folks thought the Kursk went down because of hostile actions, too.

So, yes, hostile actions are a possibility, but mass amounts of explosive hydrocarbon gas + 300 feet down under salt water + shoddy Russian maintenance = “Nobody could have possibly seen this coming”, and yet another entry into the extensive Wikipedia page on “Soviet/Russian disasters”.

“But what issues could happen in an undersea pipeline that could cause ruptures?”

Oh, my sweet summer child. Many, many, many. You might go far as to ask, “What issues won’t cause a rupture in an undersea pipeline?” — It’d be easier to list.

However, in this case involving a natural gas pipeline under the pressure of 300 to 360 feet (8 atmospheres to 10 atm.) of water, I’d like you to turn your eyes towards a fun little quirk of nature called “methane hydrates”.

Well, actually, I’d like you to meditate upon “hydrate plug”, but give me a moment.

Under certain circumstances of pressure, temperature, and water presence natural gas/methane will form solid hydrates, with concomitant amounts of fun.

For the Chinese definition of fun, anyway.

Keeping hydrates from forming is a constant battle, requiring vigilance, expertise, diligence, and constant water removal. If any of these things slack at any time — you’re getting hydrate formation.

The presence of solid hydrates in a pipeline can cause flow issues (causing cracks), destabilize the pipe itself (more cracks), and cause fires (bad. Very Bad), but the big issue (pun intended) is when you form enough hydrates that it blocks the pipe entirely (see: Hydrate plug, above).

A hydrate plug is one massive pain in the tuchkiss to remove, and removal of said hydrate plugs is not a task to be undertaken by idiots, rank amateurs, morons, the terminally unlucky, or stupid people.

The Recommended Best Practice to clear a hydrate plug is a vvveeerryyy slllooowww depressurisation from BOTH ENDS, SIMULTANEOUSLY.

How slowly, you ask? For a pipeline the size of Nordstream we’re talking weeks.

As the line reaches local atmospheric pressure heat is transferred to the plug from the environment, and the plug begins to melt, starting at the plug/wall interface.

However, if you are a national gas company with institutional paranoia, a Nationalised aversion to looking weak or asking for help, and a Good Idea Fairy fueled by vodka — well, you can depressurise the pipe from one end.

Doing so from one end does happen, but carrying it out requires a lot of very experienced people, luck (no, more than that), and the favour of multiple gods to pull off.

If the Gods blink, or Jobu has a particular case of the hips at you, what generally happens is the hydrate plug will still melt at the plug/wall junction, but when it does, the pressurised side will launch the plug (five feet in diametre, and the same density as water ice) at almost 200 miles an hour down the pipe towards the depressurised side.

When this plug bullet hits a bend in the pipe — well, it doesn’t stop, nor does it change direction easily. It’s going to make a hole.

What’s even more fun is when somebody figures out what’s happening and slams the valves closed ahead of that fast-moving plug. It’s called the Diesel Effect — for those of you a little shaky on your High School physics, here’s an interesting video of the Diesel Effect.

Done watching? Good.

Now, I want you to imagine that the clear tube in the video is a gas pipeline. The piston part and the hand is a 200-pound chunk of methane hydrate; the force being applied by a human arm is being applied by that 200-pound chunk of hydrate moving at 130 miles per hour.  And the cotton wool is actually just a section of pipe full of lovely, flammable natural gas.

Yeah. Boom. Big bada-boom.

If you’re lucky, the wall of the pipe will rupture before the ignition point … for various values of ‘lucky’.

Another fun thing that occurs to usually-intelligent people is to “gently warm the area of pipe where the plug is”. . . . . .

Gentle reader, read the rest at Nordstream | The LawDog Files