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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

EXPLAINED: Why is Spain running out of ice?

A combination of skyrocketing utilities bills and scorching summer weather has made ice cubes a hot commodity and increasingly hard to come by in Spain.

EXPLAINED: Why is Spain running out of ice?

If you’re in Spain at the moment, you’re probably struggling with el calor – the heat. With record breaking heatwaves coming earlier every year and the mercury touching 45C in places, Spaniards across the country are struggling to find ways to keep cool and avoid the heat, using fans, air-conditioning, and ice.

This summer in Spain, however, the intense heat combined with rising energy bills have made ice much harder to come by.

A perfect storm of suppliers struggling with spiking energy bills, the scorching summer heat and return of tourists means that Spain is running out of ice. 

So, what’s actually going on?

READ ALSO: Sweating like a chicken: 18 Spanish phrases to complain about the heat like a true Spaniard

The numbers

In Spain approximately 2 million kilograms of ice are produced every day. During a normal year, the spring months would see another 2 million kilograms put aside and stored every day in preparation to meet the increased demand for ice during the summer, which doubles to around 4 million kilograms a day.

This year however, with its sweltering summer heatwaves, demand for ice cubes skyrocketed to staggering 8 million kilos per day and, with very little ice stored, suppliers only have the capacity to prove around two million kilograms a day – nowhere near demand.

READ ALSO: Will Spain’s third heatwave be as bad as the last one?

This shortage has made ice a very hot commodity and increasingly hard to come by. In some supermarkets purchases of bags of ice have been limited to one per person, a move reminiscent of the rush for toilet rolls in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

And with the current volatility of the energy markets, it’s unlikely to go away anytime soon.

Energy bills

Spiralling inflation and utilities bills are affecting all walks of life, not only in Spain but across Europe and the world.

People have been forced to make sacrifices, adjust their lifestyles, and just like the Spanish government requesting companies and public buildings to limit their energy consumption to save on fuel, the energy market has also played a direct role in Spain’s ice shortage.

Ricardo Blasco, owner of one of Madrid’s oldest ice manufacturers, Hielo Blasco, told Reuters this his power bills have risen by between 50 and 60 percent since the start of the year and that he was forced to delay production from March to May to try and offset the crippling costs.

Blasco’s story is a common one. At the start of the year, Spanish ice suppliers did not produce as much as normal – certainly not enough to stockpile as much as they usually would – because of a combination of the financial impact of energy bills and the unpredictability of tourist demand during the first real restriction free summer following the pandemic.

But tourism has returned to Spain in a big way. According to Spain’s tourism ministry, 22.7 million tourists visited the country in the first five months of 2022 alone, seven times the number in the same period a year earlier, with the trend set to continue into the summer.

READ MORE: Spain eyes tourism record after ‘dazzling’ summer surge

With holidaymakers desperate to enjoy Spain’s record breaking summer heatwaves and manufacturers worried about paying the bills, ice, a staple of Spanish summer life, has now become much harder to get your hands on.

Although it may mean you now have to have your drink without ice, or can’t take a bag of ice cubes down the beach, perhaps nothing encapsulates as perfectly the two major problems facing Spanish society today: extreme weather and extreme energy bills.

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