Algeria and the ships, the two great flanks that put pressure on the gas supply to Spain

A gas extraction field in Algeria.

The dependence of the African country, from where a quarter of this raw material comes, together with the marketing of ships with LNG, represents a challenge to face the winter

Jose Maria Waiter

The same week in which Europe has proposed cutting gas consumption by 15% to all countries, in which Spain has refused that measure because here "the duties have been fulfilled", as the Minister for the Transition has recalled Ecological, Teresa Ribera;
the supply from Algeria has been altered for a few hours reducing the injection through the gas pipeline that connects that country with Almería. The incident - a technical "failure" at the worst possible time - caused the "temporary cessation" of the Mezgaz across the Mediterranean. The problem occurred for two hours on the Algerian side and was later restored.

Although the supply was not affected, this contingency reveals the instability that Spain also faces in terms of energy, despite being in a more advantageous position than the rest of the European Union. The 'energy island' made up of Spain and Portugal has forced them for years to equip themselves with regasification plants to attract methane tankers given the impossibility of receiving European gas. And the connection with the Maghreb has also brought stability. But now everything has changed.

Any decision on the ships or in Algiers can bring the economy to a standstill. In the case of neighboring Algeria, imports have fallen by 41% in the first half of 2022 compared to the same period of the previous year, while purchases of this raw material from Russia have increased by 3.2% in terms year-on-year in the first six months of the year, according to the latest data from the Enagás Statistical Bulletin and corresponding to June.

Scare with Algeria: the gas supply is partially cut off due to a breakdown

The weight loss of purchases from the African country is also noted in the accumulated data, given that in the first half of 2021 they accounted for 47.7% of total imports of this fuel, while in the first six months of 2022 they fell to 24.7%.

Dependence, although it has been reduced in recent months, is still very relevant, representing a quarter of the gas received from abroad. Any problem that may arise, even unexpected like the one that occurred this Sunday due to that technical failure in the Mezgaz, puts pressure on the supply. And it does so in a context and movements to which European countries are already accustomed: since last summer, Russia has already begun to cut off gas, alleging technical problems that have finally led to official decisions.

The other part of the supply arrives via methane tankers. In fact, it already represents 76% of the gas imports received by the Peninsula, compared to an average of 45% last year. In this case, Spain plays for now with an advantage. By having five regasification plants in various ports (Barcelona, ​​Valencia, Cartagena, Huelva and Bilbao), the capacity to receive gas (LNG) is greater. In fact, the US has definitively established itself as the main supplier of gas to Spain, given that 34.4% of purchases in the first half of the year (78,078 GWh) came from the North American country, from where the gas arrives in ships.

But here too there are risks. This was confirmed in early June, when the operator of one of the largest liquefied natural gas export plants in the United States closed due to an explosion at its facilities on the Texas Gulf Coast. The fire rocked natural gas markets. That incident has already caused a rise in raw material prices. And it considerably raised the tension in a system of methane carriers that move practically like a Persian market in which they change their routes looking for the highest bidder anywhere in the world.

Although for now Spain continues to attract these ships, any problem or decision could lead to another bump in the face of a winter that is more than complex energetically speaking for Europe.

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