The Government now sets 8 months to relaunch the gas project that saves Germany in winter

The Government will resume the works of the Midi-Catalonia gas pipeline (MidCat), a project that refused to continue until yesterday, when the Minister of Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, suddenly took a radical turn in her opinion. The third vice president announced the restart of the works after the request of the German Chancellery that desperately seeks alternatives to Russian gas. "The interconnection through the Catalan Pyrenees could be operational in eight months on the southern border," Ribera assured, before urging France to work in a coordinated manner and finish the pending work that would allow the connection to be completed. A willingness that contrasts with the words that the head of the Ecological Transition dedicated to the gas pipeline three years ago: "It is a ruinous project and does not match a context of transition where the presence of gas in the energy 'mix' will be lessened" . But now the Government comes out with vindictive airs before the wishes of Scholz. When the German chancellor said in the traditional summer meeting with the press that "it is missed in a dramatic way" he was referring without naming it to the MidCat project, paralyzed in 2019 and which would have solved Europe's dependence on Russian gas at a stroke of the pen . The European Commission, encouraged by the then Spanish Minister of Energy Miguel Arias Cañete, supported the project that proposed the connection between the gas network of Spain and France through the construction of a section of pipes that would depart from Hostalric (Gerona) and would go into the south of France. Related News standard No Ribera affirms that "in eight months" the gas pipeline in Catalonia could be operational to bring gas to Europe Servimedia The vice president has pointed out that the solution has been on the table for decades and has never been developed by the French opposition The document of the European Commission "Towards a European Strategy for Security in Energy Supply", published in 2000, warned about the risks of dependence on Russian gas and this gas pipeline, 190 kilometers long, was presented as a solution, because it would add a new gas connection between the two countries, which already had two operating from the Basque Country and Navarra, but insufficient to send the necessary flow to supply Europe. An end to the «energy island» Originally, when it began to take shape 15 years ago, its objective was to put an end to the so-called «energy island» situation, which means that Spain and Portugal are -along with Malta and Cyprus- the only countries in the EU who cannot live off their pipeline gas supply, but instead need to import liquefied gas transported by ship. MidCat's transportation capacity at full capacity would be 7,300 million cubic meters per year, just over a fifth of the annual gas consumption in Spain, enough to rebalance the Spanish market. But when the German chancellor now speaks of the advisability of building this type of infrastructure, he is referring rather to the fact that MidCat could rescue the European market in the opposite direction, helping to transfer gas from Africa to Central Europe, with the stable benefits that they enjoy transit countries. According to the status of the project in 2018, presented by the French operator Teréga, owned by the Italian Snam, and the Spanish Enagás, the MidCat required an investment of 3,000 million euros, a manageable amount. The problem was not budgetary, but opposition from French energy regulator CRE, which said MidCat will raise consumers' bills without improving security of supply. The Macron Administration, oriented to the French atomic lobby, did not look at the project with the same good eyes with which his predecessor at the Elysee, François Hollande, had seen it, and GRTgaz, Engie's gas distribution subsidiary, also questioned the need for the tube. Finally, a study by Poyry, the consultancy appointed to carry out an evaluation for the European Commission of the first phase of MidCat, gave the final touch to the project and ruled that it would only be viable from a financial point of view "in scenarios with an LNG market very tight”, a situation that would only be caused by a sharp drop in the supply of Argentine gas to Europe, highly unlikely. MEPs opposed to the project clung to this report, such as Xabier Benito Ziluaga, from Podemos, who had accused the European Commission of wanting to spend "billions of taxpayer dollars to support the gas business sector." His French colleague, Michele Rivasi, said for his part that "the MidCat project is not consistent with the climate commitments of the European Union and its promises to reduce dependence on fossil fuels." At the same time these words were spoken, work began on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea, which was completed last September and has the capacity to double the amount of gas that Russia sends to Europe. In 2019, already with Pedro Sánchez in Moncloa, MidCat was definitively parked, after the French and Spanish regulators concluded that its construction was not recommended. According to the National Commission of Markets and Competition (CNMC) and also according to the Commission de Régulation de l'Énergie (CRE), the construction of the gas pipeline was too expensive and the transport tariffs would not help improve the Spanish energy system. None of his detractors would now subscribe to those arguments and, urged by Germany, the governments of Spain and France have spoken again on the matter. It was the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, who banged her fist on the table in Madrid on March 5 and declared in front of Pedro Sánchez that "Spain will play a very important role in supplying gas to Europe." Also from the French side, the French ambassador to Spain, Jean-Michel Casa, has acknowledged that his government would be willing to resume talks. “Now the background situation has changed. Is it necessary to talk about MidCat now? Let's talk about MidCat”, which has calculated that France should allocate close to 2,000 million to reinforce its gas network in the south to be able to take said gas to Germany or Italy. Alternative Italian project Italy, however, has proposed an alternative project so that gas from Spain travels directly to its territory without going through France by sea. "In the absence of real and rapid progress in the MidCat, we are also in the pre-feasibility phase of a new offshore gas pipeline from Spain to Italy," said Marco Alverà, CEO of Snam, the Italian gas manager. He proposes using ships to start that flow of liquefied gas right now. "We are organizing a virtual gas pipeline with a system of small ships to transport LNG from Spain to Panigaglia, where only the smallest ships can unload," said the businessman, convinced that the urgent response will take precedence over MidCat.

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