France once again lowers the expectations created around the MidCat gas pipeline project, which would carry gas from Spain to central Europe, passing through the Gallic country. It was the French president himself, Emmanuel Macronwhich has stated that new gas interconnections with Spain are not necessary because the current ones are far from saturation.
Macron, during a press conference on energy, explained that the two gas pipelines that currently link the two countries, through the Basque Country and Navarra, are “underutilized”, since since February they are being used at 53% and that in August it was France that exported gas to Spain and not the other way around. “I don’t understand the short-term problem you’re trying to solve. If we were at 100% utilization, I’d say the opposite,” he said.
The president added that the MidCat gas pipeline project is not justified for energy or environmental reasons. In addition, he warned that in France “there is a lot of environmental opposition, which is not without foundation,” which would complicate carrying out the project.
Regarding the Spanish proposal that the gas pipeline be built to be able to transport green hydrogen in the future, he pointed out that the experts consider that “strong investments” would be needed to adapt the infrastructure for that purpose.
“Some even tell me that it would be absurd to transport hydrogen from Spain to France or Germany”, he stressed. What would make the most sense – he clarified – is to export renewable electricity from Spain to France or to other European countries so that it would be there where that electricity would be transformed into hydrogen.
The position now adopted by Macron contrasts with the statements made less than a week ago by the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, opening the door to the project.
“From the moment that the President of the Spanish Government and the German Chancellor request it, from the moment that our friends ask for it, we examine the request of our friends, of our partners”, explained Le Maire.
Now, Macron returns to the initial French position of not wanting to participate in the project, which aims to provide a new alternative for the flow of gas to central Europe to avoid excessive dependence on Russia. France has set its sights in recent times on strengthening its alliance with Algeria, given the atmosphere of tension between the Maghreb country and Spain. At the end of August, Macron made an official visit to relaunch bilateral relations in the face of the bad times that those with Morocco are experiencing.
Macron has been in favor of “developing electrical connections with Spain” for the export to Europe of energy produced from renewables
Instead, the president has been in favor of “developing electrical connections with Spain” for the export to Europe of energy produced from renewable sources, he said after a conversation with the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, about the energy situation in Europe.
In response to Macron’s statements, sources from the Ministry of Ecological Transition point out that “Spain is committed to increasing its interconnections with the rest of the EUpromoting solidarity between the different states, making their infrastructures available to increase the security of community supply and thinking about the future channeling of hydrogen and renewable gases that is already contemplated in the EU plans”.
“It is an issue that affects all member states and European institutions. An issue that must be carefully analyzed by the 27. For this reason, we are working to maximize our strategic autonomy; we cannot return to situations of vulnerability in the face of continuous and Putin’s future blackmail”, added these sources, who consider that “thein anticipation of a hydrogen corridor we believe that it will contribute to meeting the objectives in the medium and long term and also in the short term to reduce energy dependence.
In promoting the MidCat project, Pedro Sánchez has found numerous allies in Europe, highlighting precisely the support that the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has given him. Sánchez has even asked his German counterpart to be his intercessor to try to convince Macron of the benefits of the MidCat.
The ‘plan b’ if France fails
The coalition government intends to establish Spain as the new energy supplier of the European Union. Spain is the main port of entry for gas from Africa, through its gas pipelines with Algeria and Morocco. And it is also the EU country with the largest number of regasification plants and its logistics and transport structures are powerful.
However, France’s refusal to allow the gas pipelines to cross the Pyrenees and enter its land greatly hinders the Spanish purpose. For this reason, the Sánchez government is working on a ‘plan b’ that would consist of opening an underwater route that connect Spain with Italy. It would be a 700-kilometre submarine gas pipeline that would link the regasification plants of the port of Barcelona and Livorno in Italy. In the first instance it would transport natural gas and in the longer term green hydrogen, one of the priorities of the European Commission.