Gas pipeline to get more supplies to Northern Europe still faces hurdles

A revived pipeline project crossing Portugal, Spain and France could deliver an additional 7.5 billion cubic meters (Bcm) per year of gas to central Europe if approved by the European Commission (EC), but he still faces opposition.

Europe is seeking to secure alternative sources of gas to reduce its dependence on Russian pipeline imports. Russia has cut European pipeline exports, blaming Western sanctions for its war in Ukraine.

The relaunch of the Mid-Catalonia gas pipeline (MidCat) is an alternative being considered to increase gas volumes to Europe. Germany, Spain and Portugal have urged the EC to push ahead with the pipeline project, while France opposes it.

[Client Collaboration: What type of additional content / information / data would you like to see more of in NGI? Tell us now.]

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his pipeline could make a “massive contribution” to reducing supply constraints.

“I have been very active in the talks with my two colleagues in Spain and Portugal, but also with the French president and the president of the EC to advocate for such a project,” he said.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said a pipeline connection to central Europe should be “a priority”.

Part of the revived pipeline project could “work in about eight or nine months on the southern side of the border, that is from the Pyrenees to Spain”, Spanish Energy Minister Teresa Ribera has reportedly said. .

The 120-mile MidCat pipeline was originally developed in 2013 to transport gas from northern to southern Europe. The route is expected to stretch across the Pyrenees, from Spain to Hostalric, north of Barcelona, ​​to Barbaira in the south of France.

Construction has only been completed at Hostalric, with approximately 60 miles of pipeline remaining to be completed to connect the Spanish and French transmission networks. Energy regulators in France and Spain halted construction of the pipeline in 2019, saying the project was not commercially viable and had also received environmental opposition.

“A number of factors appear to be lining up to resurrect the project, in particular Europe’s need to phase out dependence on Russian gas supplies, which has certainly sparked Germany’s interest in the project. the project,” said lead researcher Marco Giuli of the Brussels School of Governance in Belgium.

“But there are a number of obstacles,” he told NGI. “The project has always been opposed by France. And there are no signs yet of a clear change in the French position.

French Energy Transition Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher reportedly said completing the pipeline would be too expensive and would take three to four years.

Germany will soon have LNG import facilities, the French ministry said – a faster and cheaper option for importing LNG than waiting for the MidCat to start.

Another problem is the lack of pipeline connections between France and Germany to bring gas received from southern Europe, where there is a glut of regasification capacity that could be used to bring more gas north. .

If the project is revived, the six Spanish LNG terminals, the largest LNG network in Europe, and the only Portuguese installation, could receive LNG and deliver gas to the rest of Europe.

“Spain has around 60 billion m3 of LNG import capacity, compared to an annual national consumption of around 33 billion m3.” Giuli said.

A larger interconnector would allow Spain’s unused capacity to contribute to the security of the continent, as “the only trans-Pyrenees interconnector at Larrau can currently ship just over 5 billion m3”, he added.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez wants the European Union to fund the remaining 60 miles of the pipeline, which is estimated to cost between $600 million and $700 million.

“This interconnection, which improves the security of gas supply to the rest of Europe, should be financed as a European project,” Ribera said. Spain “must work simultaneously with the French government”.

If the LNG network is connected to Europe, Spain should “take a more European perspective on demand reduction and solidarity,” Guili told NGI. “Spain could end up with conflicting national interests.”

Guili added that Spain’s isolation allowed the country to receive “special treatment” from the EC when it capped gas prices for the electricity sector and proposed a reduction target. gas consumption by 15% until next spring.

An alternative being discussed to avoid France’s opposition to a gas link through the Pyrenees is an undersea LNG pipeline between Spain and Italy, Portuguese Costa said.

Mary I. Bruner