Paris appears to doubt that the MidCat pipeline connecting Central Europe with Paris would alleviate the energy crisis
Paris and Berlin have resisted a major project for a gas pipeline. El Pais, several Spanish news outlets, and other Spanish media reported this week that they cited a French Ministry of Energy Transition letter.
Spain imports natural gas from Algeria through two undersea pipelines – the Maghreb-Europe and the Medgaz.
The Midi-Catalonia Pipeline (or MidCat) was a planned gas transit network that spans hundreds of kilometers in France and Spain. This project would have a capacity of 7.5 million cubic meters. France cancelled the project in 2019, after it had covered a significant portion of its cost and declared it unviable financially.
The MidCat idea was revived in May 2022, amid fears of a looming energy crisis due to potential cuts in gas supplies from Russia – the continent’s major energy supplier – amid the conflict in Ukraine. Madrid and Berlin are “pushing hard to revive it,”According to El Pais. Paris however seems unconvinced.
“Such a project would require, in any case, many years [for it] to become operational,”The French minister led by Agnes Pannier Runacher stated in an email statement. This was seen by El Pais as well as several Spanish outlets.
It would take many years to complete just the relevant studies and other documentation related to such a project, the ministry argued, adding that MidCat is unlikely to help with the current energy crisis in the EU or the potential shortages this winter. Paris proposed building additional terminals for liquified natural gases, which he called “Liquid Natural Gas Terminals”. “smaller and faster investments.”
The French ministry stated that building a pipeline could also be detrimental to climate goals. “to meet both the current energy challenge and the climate challenge, we will have to reduce our gas consumption and accelerate the development of carbon-free energy [sources].”
At a Berlin press conference last week, Olaf Scholz stated that he had asked his Spanish- and Portuguese counterparts for help. “discuss”The project and that he was “in talks”French President Emmanuel Macron and Ursula von der Leyen (head of the EU Commission).
Spain’s Third Deputy Prime Minister Teresa Ribera followed up by saying the Spanish part of the project could be ready “in eight or nine months.”
Macron hasn’t made public statements regarding the project so far. France’s energy transition ministry maintains that MidCat must be a “subject to dialogue between the affected member states,” adding that “European solidarity and our climate goals” should be taken into account as well.
Authorities in Madrid said on Thursday that they were “not aware of any official communication from the French government” on the issue to date. Ribera also reportedly argued that the pipeline could be used to transport hydrogen – which is considered one of renewable energy sources – in the future. The idea prompted some Spanish officials to suggest that Paris fears competition to its energy exports.
“France is afraid of green hydrogen [energy] from the south,” said a Spanish MEP Nicolas González Casares,This is an additional feature the French authorities “want to protect their nuclear power.” According to the Spanish media, Paris insists that “uncertainties are very high about the production and consumption capacities” of hydrogen in the future.
An EU energy crisis has been caused by rising international prices. This week’s gas prices on the Dutch TTF hub surpassed $2,600 per 1,000 cubic meters for the first-time since March. The winter forecast predicts that prices will rise 60% and exceed $4,000 for every thousand cubic meters.
In an attempt to address the crisis, earlier this month the bloc adopted a plan which would have member countries reduce their gas consumption by 15 percent.