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Spain says new gas pipeline may take 7 years to build

A planned underwater energy pipeline linking Barcelona in Spain and Marseille in France could take up to seven years to build, Spain's energy minister said on Friday.

Spain says new gas pipeline may take 7 years to build
Spain's Energy Minister Teresa Ribera Rodriguez said they need to study exactly how long the planned underwater pipeline will take to build. Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP

France, Spain and Portugal announced on Thursday they had agreed to build the maritime pipeline instead of a long-discussed overland pipeline across the Pyrenees that France opposed, but gave no timeline for its construction.

The underwater pipeline — dubbed BarMar — would initially be used for natural gas but, over time, more and more for hydrogen.

“This new design logically takes longer. We have to study whether it is five or six years, seven years,” Spain’s Energy Minister Teresa Ribera said during an interview with Catalunya Radio.

“Now is probably the most complicated part, which is to work with the technical teams of the various countries, of the different firms that have the capacity to design a project of these characteristics.”

Ribera said the three nations expect to get European Union funding for the project, which will allow the energy networks of Spain and Portugal to be connected to those in central Europe.

The announcement of the pipeline comes as Europe is racing to secure alternative energy supplies after Moscow slashed gas flows apparently in response to Western sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Spain and Portugal had lobbied hard for the construction of a 190-kilometre (120-mile) overland pipeline across the Pyrenees to France, which would allow the shipment of gas further on into Germany.

Initially launched in 2003, the MidCat project was dropped in 2019 over regulatory and funding issues.

But in the wake of Europe’s energy crisis sparked by the Ukraine war, Spain and Portugal revived talk of the project, which had the backing of Germany.

Its aim was to transport gas from Algeria through Spain to the rest of the European Union. There are currently only two small gas pipelines linking Spain and France.

READ ALSO: What is Spain’s new winter energy saving plan?

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ENERGY

‘It’s a joke’: Spain slams EU gas price cap

The Spanish government on Wednesday lambasted the European Commission's proposed price cap on wholesale natural gas, set so high that critics have questioned if it would ever be used.

'It's a joke': Spain slams EU gas price cap

The EU executive on Tuesday unveiled a gas “safety ceiling” of €275 per megawatt hour as the bloc grapples with high energy prices spurred by Moscow’s war in Ukraine and supply cuts.

But the conditions meant the cap would only kick in when EU gas prices breach that threshold for two weeks running, calculated on advance purchases through the bloc’s main gas price benchmark, TTF.

The cap was also contingent on the TTF price for liquefied natural gas – an easily transportable form of gas that can be shipped worldwide — exceeding €58 for 10 days within that same two-week period.

The only time the TTF gas price has gone above the €275 limit was between August 22nd and 29th this year.

It was running at around €120 in trading on Tuesday.

Spanish ecological transition minister Teresa Ribera called the commission’s proposal a “joke”, saying it would cause steeper price hikes and hamper efforts to tame decades-high inflation.

The French energy transition ministry criticised an “insufficient” scheme that “does not respond to the reality of the market”.

“The commission must propose an operational text, not simply a text that is political grandstanding and may have negative or no effects,” it said.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has also expressed his opposition to the plan, with Ribera saying most EU members were against it as the bloc’s energy ministers prepare to meet on Thursday.

Spain could stop supporting other proposals on matters important to the commission if another “serious” text is not forthcoming, Ribera added.

A commission spokeswoman said the mechanism was designed “to anticipate and prevent this situation happening in the future”, but admitted even August’s price spike would not have triggered it.

The cap, if adopted, would come into force in January and came after months of wrangling between EU countries.

It runs alongside a plan by member states to voluntarily cut natural gas use by 15 percent over the northern hemisphere winter.

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