Catalan leader confident gas pipeline with France will be built this decade

Catalonian regional President Pere Aragones (R) poses as he meets with several MPs at Lower Chamber of Spanish Parliament, several days after The New Yorker published thad some 60 pro-independent leaders were spied after their phones were infected with spyware technology Pegasus, in Madrid, Spain, 21 April 2022. Aragones threaten Spanish PM, Pedro Sanchez (unseen), that his political party will remove its support to the central government at the Parlament if he does not give explanations. [EPA-EFE/J.J.GUILLEN]

The head of the regional government of Catalonia is confident a pipeline to ship gas and potentially green hydrogen from the northeastern Spanish region to France will be built this decade as Europe seeks to cut its energy reliance on Russia.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has boosted political support in Spain for the Midi-Catalonia (Midcat) pipeline project, which was rejected in 2019 by French and Spanish regulators arguing it did not respond to market needs back then, despite being backed by the European Union.

French pipeline operator Terega, owned by Italy’s Snam, and Spain’s Enagás had submitted the Midcat project in 2018.

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has said it’s the right time to promote energy interconnections between Spain, which has the largest fleet of liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminals, and the rest of Europe to replace Russian gas with gas shipped from other countries overseas.

Sánchez suggested the Midcat could be financed with EU funds, though France has stayed largely quiet in recent weeks on whether it would support the project.

Spain seeks EU funding for 'green gas' interconnector to rest of Europe

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has called on the European Union to finance gas interconnections with the rest of Europe, saying new infrastructure should also include green gases such as hydrogen. EURACTIV’s partner El Diario reports.

Catalonia’s leader Pere Aragonès told Reuters on Wednesday he believes the region can be a key energy hub as Barcelona’s port hosts the largest terminal in continental Europe to unload LNG and convert it back into gas.

There are only two gas pipelines to France and the Midcat would more than double the amount of gas pumped across the Pyrenean mountains, though building it would take five or six years, according to the Spanish government.

“The Midcat is good for Europe. Catalonia has its gas supply guaranteed with Barcelona’s port, but we want Europe to also have its supply totally guaranteed,” Aragonès said in an interview, adding Catalonia would be an “essential and trustworthy” energy partner.

He said the pipeline’s visual impact would be minimal, so the project could overcome opposition from some politicians and environmental groups.

The Midcat would be connected to another pipeline from Algeria. It would run from the town of Hostalric, about 100 kilometres from the French border, and continue into France.

Enagás said last month it was evaluating options to strengthen Spain’s interconnections, while Snam said the Midcat “should be built.”

Snam also said another project for an undersea pipeline linking Spain and Italy was at a pre-feasibility stage.

Asked about that pipeline, Aragonès said he needed further information but that he generally backed improving connections to strengthen energy security.

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Spain’s energy Minister, Teresa Ribera, assured that “it is very difficult to make progress” with France on the construction of a gas pipeline that will allow Spain to export its stored gas to the rest of Europe.

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