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05 Oct 2022, 13:55
Benjamin Wehrmann

Pyrenee gas pipeline pushed by Germany and Spain runs into French opposition – media

Handelsblatt

A new gas pipeline that would connect the Iberian peninsula with northern Europe through the Pyrenees is causing a stir in France, Spain and Germany amid the energy crisis, business daily Handelsblatt reports. The MidCat pipeline that would connect Spain’s large liquefied natural gas (LNG) capacity with other European countries struggling to cover their gas demand is regarded as a much-needed EU reaction to the energy crisis by Germany. This comes after fossil fuel trading with Russia and Europe has largely come to a halt. The 190-kilometre pipeline through the southern European mountain range was meant to double the Iberian peninsula's export capacities to the rest of Europe, and might also be used for transporting green hydrogen in the future, the article says. But France has little appetite for the project, as the government in Paris regards the pipeline as unnecessary because it plans to use its own LNG import infrastructure and wants to produce hydrogen with domestic nuclear power, Handelsblatt writes.

The project was initiated back in 2013 but was abandoned in 2019, when gas prices were low and the European Commission voiced doubts about its profitability. Moreover, France questions whether the pipeline can be retrofitted to transport hydrogen. “We will continue to try and convince France,” a German diplomat told the newspaper ahead of a visit by German chancellor Olaf Scholz to Spain, where the MidCat project will be debated with Spanish president Pedro Sanchez. Scholz in August said the pipeline could “make a massive contribution towards easing the situation and provide relief regarding our supply.” Spain’s minister for the ecological transition Teresa Ribera said the project would not be a “purely bilateral” issue for France and Spain but would concern “the supply security of central and northern Europe.” However, political observers in France suspect Spain wants to monetise the excessive infrastructure it had built in recent years. The French government points out that the MidCat project would cost billions of euros and take years to build, while Europe seeks to end fossil fuel use in the medium term.

Russia’s attack on Ukraine has fuelled a price hike for gas and other energy resources across Europe and threw decades of particularly German energy policy into disarray, as the country lost its hitherto most important energy trading partner. Germany quickly prepared the construction of its own LNG import infrastructure but also appealed to its European neighbours to show solidarity amid the energy crisis and help secure a stable supply for all EU countries and their partners.

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