Minister Ribera confirms contacts with German ministers and welcomes the fact that activation of this decades-old proposal, which France opposed, is being considered
Germany is looking for all kinds of alternatives to its high dependence on gas from Russia. The last one is to replace this supply from Moscow with another from Algeria through the
construction of a gas pipeline linking Portugal and Spain with Central Europe through France. The Vice President and Minister of Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, assessed the proposal "positively" and confirmed that she has already been in contact with the Federal Vice Chancellor and head of the Economy, Robert Habeck, who has faced "a very complicated situation" in recent months due to the weight that Russian gas has in Germany and the complexity of separating from Moscow, from whom it received more than 50% of this gas.
The plan had been on the table "for decades", but had always had the opposition of France, something that seems to be solved now given the seriousness of the situation. The chancellor of Germany himself, Olaf Scholz, confirmed yesterday that he had already started talks about it with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and with the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.
Spain, which has the largest regasification capacity in all of Europe, had already offered since the beginning of this energy crisis with Russia to increase the interconnections of the Peninsula with Central Europe. The problem is how long it would take to build this huge infrastructure. In the words of Ribera on TVE, this period could be reduced to "eight or nine months" on the southern border, that is, the part of the gas pipeline that would connect Spain with France through the Catalan Pyrenees, and hence supply this energy to the rest of the European Union.
These deadlines would be feasible as long as France also worked in its part of the territory to connect the gas supply from Algeria through Spain with the rest of the European continent. "The energy emergency that the EU is experiencing makes it possible to activate this solution that has been on the table for decades," lamented Ribera, who recalled that in the rest of the continent there is "a kind of central skeleton of gas pipelines" that connects many countries, but that the Iberian Peninsula "we were isolated" by the border with France.
Currently the only gas connection that Spain has with France is a double gas pipeline that runs under the western part of the Pyrenees, one in Irún and the other in the Navarrese Pyrenees. Between the two they can hardly export 8,000 million cubic meters a year, when experts calculate that the regasification capacity could rise ten times more. The second project, the Midcat, which runs through Catalonia and ends in Girona, was expected to double this volume of shipments, it was paralyzed in 2019 after having invested 440 million euros in it due to its high cost and the Spanish and French decision to bet for renewable energies. However, since the outbreak of the war, the project has been resumed and Spain has asked the EU to help finance the construction of the little more than 200 kilometers that remain between Hostalric (Girona) and the French town of Barbaira.
Up to 30% more export capacity
The vice president also gave two more solutions that would be available before the gas pipeline. On the one hand, the improvement of the infrastructure that already exists throughout the Basque Country by installing an additional compressor that would increase the delivery of gas through this route to France by between 20% and 30%, which would relieve "in almost immediately” part of the problem.
On the other, to strengthen the maritime bridge so that the existing infrastructures can receive more methane tankers that transport liquefied gas to Spain and from here take it to other European countries, such as the Italian port of Liborno, explained Ribera. Specifically, the minister is confident that as of December it will be possible to "make better use of the resources we have in Gijón" to increase the volume of gas exports by ship to the rest of Europe.