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Brussels studies a gas pipeline of more than 2,500 million euros between Barcelona and Livorno | Economy

Something is moving in Brussels. In the midst of the energy crisis and aware that, in these circumstances, Spain has a jewel —in the form of six active regasification plants, the largest number of any country on the continent—, but little interconnected with the rest of the EU, the Commission The European Union speaks clearly for the first time of the possibility of betting on a gas pipeline that connects the Iberian Peninsula with Italy under the Mediterranean Sea. The tube – 700 kilometers long, which would require an investment of between 2,500 million and 3,000 million euros, and which would take between one and two years to complete – appears on one of the maps included in the RepowerEUthe roadmap of the Community Executive to face the difficult disconnection from Russian oil and gas.

This new map of European energy flows also contemplates the resurrection of the Midcat, another pipeline that the Commission supported for years —even with the promise of partially defraying it with money from the Twenty-seven—, but that Spain temporarily kept in the drawer and that France — after dragging his feet for a long time—refused to build. The Government has fought hard in recent weeks to achieve its incorporation into the great plan of the EU Executive to disconnect from Russian gas. But always under the premise of converting it into a gas infrastructure prepared to house renewable hydrogen, one of the green energy vectors with the greatest potential in the EU and in whose development Spain will play an essential role.

“An additional cross-border infrastructure project in the Iberian Peninsula should be further evaluated in view of its long-term potential to harness the significant renewable hydrogen potential of the Iberian Peninsula, as well as North Africa,” says one of the annexes. published by the Commission together with the great Russian fuel disconnection plan. The text, located under a heading that reviews possible additional gas infrastructures, considers it necessary to evaluate its potential “to become the first element of the hydrogen backbone.”

Community sources note that the inclusion of these projects within the map prepared by the Commission indicates that they are “possible corridors” to take into account in the face of a disconnection from Russian gas, whose dependence Brussels wants to reduce by 66% before the end of the year .

Compared to the Pyrenees connection, the pipeline between Barcelona and Livorno is presented as a second emergency alternative to be able to supply both Italy —which has three regasification plants— and the countries of central and northern Europe. “It is a display of Italian power in Brussels,” reflects a source from the gas sector on condition of anonymity. “He is the main person interested in moving forward: his idea is to be able to unload LNG [gas natural licuado, en la jerga energética] in the port of Barcelona, ​​return it there to a gaseous state and take it by tube”.

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The underuse of the Iberian regasification terminals —a Rare avis in the European environment, in which the few infrastructures of this type are working at maximum capacity— would allow the operation to be carried out, which would also leave a certain economic return in Spain. “This project with Italy changes the geopolitical situation,” weighs another source in the sector about the maritime gas pipeline to Livorno. “France, which had never wanted the gas corridor with Spain, can be bypassed, and this can make the Elysée reflect. Spain now has an alternative; We’ll see how things develop…”.

“At Enagás we are working in permanent coordination with the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and with the gas operators of our European neighbors, analyzing the different technical options to reinforce and complete the interconnections to contribute to the security of Europe’s energy supply,” he points out. EL PAÍS Arturo Gonzalo, CEO of the Spanish gas system operator. “In all cases we are talking about interconnections designed from the beginning to transport hydrogen, even though in the early years they were used to transport natural gas”.

In recent months, the idea of ​​a connection between Spain and Italy has been gaining ground. On May 11, Enagás and his peer Snam signed a memorandum of understanding to explore the feasibility of the project. “There are also high-level conversations,” they add from the sector. “It is something that can work to bring resources from the southern Mediterranean to northern Europe,” Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said about the plan in an appearance at the end of March, in which he acknowledged having spoken with the Spanish president. , Pedro Sánchez, about the duct. “It’s just a hypothesis and it has to be studied.”

The Spanish Government, for its part, does not take a dim view of the tube project between Barcelona and Livorno, but insists on two points: that the money for its construction will have to come from the community budgets or from Italy and the central and the north of the Union —”those who are really going to benefit, and not us”— and that its implementation does not definitively leave Midcat in oblivion, a semi-finished infrastructure between Hostalric (Girona) and Barbaira (near Carcassonne), and which is called to play an important role in the future to export hydrogen. Although the Spain-Italy pipeline would be built with the intention that, in the not so distant future, it would also allow the flow of this gas, more than one connection will be needed to release Spanish production.

Changes in the Midcat

In the latest version of the European plan, the interconnection project between Spain and France undergoes a fundamental change with respect to its original conception: it goes from a gas pipeline to a key infrastructure in the hydrogen corridor —a fuel for the future whose take-off schedule has accelerated the pandemonium energy – that the EU wants to strengthen. Completing the pending sections of the Hispano-Galician tube would cost some 600 million euros, with a slightly longer execution time than the submarine tube between Barcelona and Livorno.

The Spanish idea, according to another source in the sector, is to create a third gas connection (there are currently two), which would make it possible to take advantage of the current LNG regasification capacity, currently underutilized due to the low level of interconnection via gas pipelines through the Pyrenees, to help ensure the security and diversification of gas supplies from Germany and those European countries most dependent on Russian gas. Both the German giant —which has a powerful industry, highly dependent on Russian gas— and the rest of the Central European countries could also be supplied through the Italian route.

At the same time, it is intended that the Pyrenean Midcat be prepared to transport hydrogen to France, Germany and the rest of Europe, which could make Spain a major exporter of this resource in the medium term. Shortly before the Commission made public the energy plan last week, Teresa Ribera, Third Vice President of the Government and Minister of Ecological Transition, sent a letter to the European Commission, demanding that the EU contribute to the financing of the interconnections ” with sufficient funds.”

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