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SPAIN AND MOROCCO

Spain starts sending gas to Morocco after Algeria spat

Spain has started sending natural gas supplies to Morocco through the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline (GME) to ensure its energy security following a supply crisis with Algeria.

gas morocco spain
The yellow line shows the the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline . It is currently supported by the Medgaz gas pipeline from Algeria (in blue). Map: Semhur/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

“The first shipment via the Maghreb gas pipeline took place (on Tuesday) involving LNG (liquefied natural gas) which Morocco bought on the international markets and unloaded at a Spanish regasification plant,” a source at Spain’s ecological transition ministry told AFP.

In February, Spain said it would help Morocco address a gas supply shortage by letting it ship LNG to a Spanish regasification plant which could then be transferred to Morocco via the GME pipeline.

The GME pipeline, which crosses Morocco, had previously been used by Algeria to transport gas to Spain.

But in October, following a diplomatic spat, Algiers refused to renew a 25-year deal with Rabat to use the pipeline.   

Morocco had been receiving around a billion cubic metres of gas per year as transit fees, covering around 97 percent of its needs, so Algeria’s move directly impacted on Rabat’s energy supplies.

Algiers, which in the first quarter supplied about 25 percent of Spain’s gas imports, had in April warned Madrid not to re-export any of its supplies to Morocco, warning it could endanger its own contract with Algeria.

“A certification scheme guarantees that this gas is not of Algerian origin,” the Spanish ministry source said.

Spain’s Enagas, which operates four LNG terminals and the national gas grid, “will check the origin of the methane tanker carrying the gas” acquired by Morocco “and after unloading will issue a certificate”, ensuring that no other gas is exported, the source said.

Tensions peaked between the North African neighbours last year following Morocco’s renewal of diplomatic ties with Israel and Washington’s recognition of Rabat’s sovereignty over disputed Western Sahara.

Diplomatic ties have also nose-dived between Spain and Algeria after Madrid reversed its decades-long stance of neutrality on Western Sahara, agreeing to back Morocco’s autonomy plan for the disputed region to end a year-long diplomatic spat.

Spain’s move, widely seen as a victory for Morocco, infuriated Algeria, which backs the Polisario Front, Western Sahara’s independence movement.

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ENERGY

Spain’s PM hopes European gas link will become a reality ‘soon’

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Tuesday he hopes a gas pipeline linking the Iberian Peninsula to central Europe through France could soon become a reality.

Spain's PM hopes European gas link will become a reality 'soon'

Europe is currently undergoing an energy crisis as it struggles to rapidly reduce its dependence on Russian gas following the invasion of Ukraine.

Russia has reduced deliveries and nations are scrambling for supplies to avoid a possible shortage this winter, while prices for gas and electricity have soared.

“Spain has a lot to contribute to help Europe reduce its energy dependence on Russia thanks to our immense regasification capacity,” Sánchez said on a visit to La Palma in the Canary Islands.

Spain currently has six liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals for processing deliveries made by huge sea tankers back into gas and injecting them into its pipeline network.

But the country has only two low-capacity links to France’s gas network, limiting its current ability to act as a conduit to boost EU gas imports.

Last week, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said a pipeline bringing gas from the Iberian Peninsula through France to central Europe could make “a massive contribution” to easing the supply crisis, in remarks hailed by Madrid and Lisbon.

Madrid has for years championed the idea of a pipeline across the Catalan Pyrenees with France to significantly increase transfer capacity and insisted such link could be built within months.

“This is something the Spanish government has been demanding from Europe for a long time now… and we hope we can soon make this dream into a reality,” Sánchez said.

Spain is already showing solidarity with its European partners by exporting energy “and we will do so even more when we improve the energy interconnections”, he added.

The pipeline would be similar to the defunct MidCat project, which sought to link Spain to France, but which was halted in 2019 over opposition from environmental groups and a lack of funding.

Spain’s gas network operator Enagas said last week it could have the Spanish section of the pipeline ready within “eight or nine months”.

Sources familiar with the project said it would initially transport natural gas, but would ultimately switch to hydrogen.

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