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Europe boosts defenses of energy assets after Baltic Sea ‘sabotage’

North Sea oil and gas companies have reported strange drones flying close to sites.

Following the alleged damage of the Nord Stream pipelines in Denmark, European nations increased military patrols to safeguard energy supplies in the North Sea and off the coast of Italy.

Norway went on a show of force by sending torpedo boats and frigates to patrol near energy assets, flying F-35 fighter jets past oil platforms, and announcing that it had welcomed assistance from Germany, the UK, and France to boost security.

Since Russia cut back on supply after invading Ukraine, Scandinavia has emerged as Europe’s top natural gas supplier. As a result, supply concerns have focused on its pipelines and gasfields as the continent deals with a severe energy shortage this winter.

Italy said that it worried Russia could try to strike crucial energy infrastructure and that it would step up measures to secure gas pipelines carrying supplies from north Africa to Europe through the Sicilian canal.

On Friday, the US announced that it is closely coordinating with Norway and other nations who are stepping up their monitoring activities. According to US national security adviser Jake Sullivan, “We have… started working with allies to improve surveillance and monitoring of energy infrastructure, particularly pipelines in the Baltic Sea.”

The Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines’ alleged sabotage, which resulted in significant gas leaks in the Baltic Sea, has raised concerns about the security of gas supply. Russia has demanded a UN investigation while denying responsibility. Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, attributed the harm to “the Anglo-Saxons.”

Sullivan stated that although the US does not yet have any concrete intelligence to give regarding assaults on western infrastructure, it is nonetheless preparing for such a scenario by stepping up “our surveillance and monitoring of vital infrastructure in NATO territory.”

The remarks follow US President Joe Biden’s Friday description of the damage to the two pipelines in the Baltic Sea as “a purposeful act of sabotage.”

While the pipes were dormant and most of Russia’s gas supplies to Europe had already been reduced as payback for western assistance for Ukraine, the breaches have sparked worries about what German authorities have labeled a “energy war” that could threaten other infrastructure.

Operators of oil and gas in the Norwegian and Danish seas of the North Sea reported seeing several unidentified drones close to facilities recently.

ConocoPhillips, a US energy giant, announced on Friday that it was stepping up security at its Norwegian properties following a drone’s approach to one of its sites. According to Norwegian media, the platform is a component of the Ekofisk oilfield, which is located not far from the maritime border with the UK.

While they have closely watched the movement of Russian vessels since their invasion of Ukraine, Italy’s chief of defense staff, Admiral Giuseppe Cavo Dragone, told La Repubblica that there was now a renewed attention on the security of energy pipelines.

He was cited as saying, “The undersea menace in the Mediterranean will grow increasingly more urgent, in all its facets.” “And it is important to defend the electricity and communications networks.”

The UK government’s Center for the Protection of National Infrastructure contacted UK North Sea operators on Friday and instructed them to make sure “their monitoring equipment and security systems are fully working” and that they have procedures in place to report any suspicious activities.

According to data from air traffic control, a Poseidon maritime surveillance plane that is intended to locate submarines took off from northern Scotland on Thursday and circled for many hours close to the North Sea coast near Newcastle, occasionally flying at just a few thousand feet.

The Poseidon action has not been addressed by the UK Ministry of Defense. According to the report, the simultaneous activity of at least seven Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons over the North Sea was not caused by energy-related issues but rather was a result of routine training for “night warfare.”

EU energy ministers met in Brussels on Friday to address the Nord Stream pipeline damage.

The Swedish energy minister, Khashayar Farmanbar, stated after the discussions that it was “essential to highlight, this is not only a northern European issue, this is a European issue.”

He continued, “Europe must ensure supply security and increase its security on energy.

In a joint statement to the UN Security Council, Sweden and Denmark stated that the leaks were most likely brought on by a “explosive load of several hundred kilograms.”

Robert Wright and John Paul Rathbone in London, Alice Hancock in Brussels, and Felicia Schwartz in Washington contributed more to this report.

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