France, Spain and Portugal agree to build Barcelona to Marseille gas pipeline

France, Portugal, and Spain announced Thursday that they would build a sea-based pipe to transport hydrogen and gas from Barcelona to Marseille. This will replace plans to extend the MidCat pipeline across France.

BarMar is a route that will be used primarily to transport green hydrogen and other biogases. However, it will temporarily allow for transportation of a limited amount of natural gas in order to alleviate Europe’s current energy crisis, said Antonio Costa, Portuguese Prime Minister.

Europe is trying to find alternative energy sources in the face of Russia’s pressure. Russia has gradually cut gas flow after sanctions were imposed by the West in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

According to Pedro Sanchez, the Spanish Prime Minister, the pipeline was “a response to calls from our European partners for solidarity in the face (Russian President Vladimir Putin’s blackmail)”, he told reporters in Brussels.

Emmanuel Macron, the French President, stated that it was essential that Europe remain united.

The BarMar is the result of a dispute between Spain and Portugal. They wanted to expand the MidCat pipeline to sell gas to central Europe. France opposed the idea, arguing that it would be too expensive to build the pipeline to solve short-term supply problems.

Costa stated, “It’s great news, one of Europe’s oldest blockades has been overthrown.”

According to a joint statement, France and Spain also agreed to accelerate an electricity interconnection via the Bay of Biscay as well as identify and work on additional connections between their national grids.

The leaders from the three countries met again in Alicante (Spain) on December 9th to discuss a timeline for construction and how it will all be funded.

Despite resistance from France and Spain, Spain and Italy had discussed the possibility of an underwater pipeline connecting the two countries.

It was also pushing France to accept MidCat, which would have required the construction of 100 km (62 mi) of pipelines to France’s border.

Spain claimed that the pipeline extension could be completed in less time than one year, while France stated that it would take several years.

According to Wood Mackenzie consultancy, Spain was second to the US in terms of green hydrogen investment announcements during the first quarter of 2022.

Iberdrola is currently building Europe’s largest green-hydrogen plant in Puertollano, central Spain. They declined to comment on the announcement.

Cepsa is one of the Spanish oil and gas companies that are developing green hydrogen. It will invest 7-8 billion euros ($7.8-8.9billion) to shift its business to low-carbon sources of energy by 2030.

Maarten Wetselsaar, Cepsa CEO, told Reuters that the agreement placed Spain at the center of Europe’s plan for diversification away from Russian energy. He said that Spain and Cepsa could be central players in the future EU Hydrogen Market, delivering both energy transition and security at the same.

Spain has six terminals that allow it to transport liquefied natural gases and make them gaseous, while Portugal only has one.

Because of the unseasonably warm autumn, they are now all at full capacity.

Spain is the EU’s largest regasification country, with 33% of all LNG and 44% of LNG storage capacity. Nigeria and the United States are key suppliers of LNG for Spain. Spain also receives pipelined gas from Algeria.

Gas prices on the Iberian peninsula dropped to their lowest level in six months due to the fact that storage terminals are full, and that they don’t possess the infrastructure necessary to transport it to other parts of central Europe.

Germany, which has historically been more vulnerable to Russian imports, is looking for multiple solutions in order to fill the gap left by Russia’s decision to restrict supply.

The first gas delivery from France to Germany through a pipeline link was received by Germany on Thursday, according to GRTgaz, the French grid operator. This deal is meant to help both countries address their current energy supply issues.

France is less vulnerable to Russian imports than its eastern neighbour because most of its needs are fulfilled from Norway and LNG deliveries. France will initially deliver 31 gigawatt-hours per Day using a pipeline through the Moselle region.

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