Spain has said an additional link in a gas pipeline from the Iberian peninsula to France could be ready within nine months after Germany backed the idea of linking the region to central Europe to improve the continent’s energy security.
Spanish energy and environment minister Teresa Ribera said on Friday that a new section of pipeline from Spain into France could be constructed in less than a year as part of attempts to wean Europe off Russian gas.
The new link, could increase Spain’s capacity to export gas by 20-30 per cent, she told Spanish broadcaster TVE.
Portuguese prime minister António Costa said: “Germany can count 100 per cent on Portugal’s commitment to the building of a gas pipeline.” Writing on Twitter on Thursday, Costa added: “Today gas, tomorrow green hydrogen.”
The move comes as Europe is grappling with the biggest energy crisis in at least a generation following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February. Moscow has cut gas supplies to Europe and there are risks of shortages this winter and in 2023 if Russian exports are reduced further.
The loss of Russian supplies, which met 40 per cent of EU demand before the invasion, has forced Europe to rely more heavily on imported cargos of seaborne liquefied natural gas.
But much of Europe’s LNG import capacity lies on the Iberian peninsula, which is viewed in the industry as a gas “island” as there is limited pipeline capacity connecting it to northern Europe.
German chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Thursday that he had discussed a new pipeline with the leaders of Spain, Portugal and France and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.
He added that there would also be “other connections between north Africa and Europe that will help us to diversify our [energy] supply”.
Europe is having to find ways to rejig its internal pipeline arteries, which were designed based on the assumption that much of the continent’s supply would flow from Russia.
Even if the continent can secure alternative supplies such as LNG or more pipeline exports from countries including Norway or Algeria, there are concerns about bottlenecks in moving supplies eastward to countries closer to Russia.
Wholesale gas prices in Europe have soared to almost 10 times the average level of the past decade.
The EU is trying to emphasise “solidarity” over sharing and conserving energy supplies among member states ahead of what is expected to be a difficult winter. But there are still question marks over rules and agreements governing how to distribute resources if there are widespread shortages.
Until the new pipeline is completed, Costa said the port of Sines on Portugal’s south-west coast could be used as a logistics hub to ship LNG into the rest of Europe.