France, Spain in Talks to Resume Construction on MidCat Gas Pipeline Project

The war in Ukraine is relaunching the MidCat/Step gas pipeline project, which was abandoned in 2019. The costly infrastructure would ensure the gas interconnection between Spain and France.

The gas pipeline project named MidCat (Midi-Catalonia) launched in 2013 and was designed to link, via the Pyrenees, Hostalric north of Barcelona to Barbaira, in Aude, east of Carcassonne. Its aim was to bring gas from Algeria, a country which already supplies 11% of the gas consumed in the European Union, up to northern Europe.

But the project was abandoned in 2019. It was considered too expensive, estimated at 500 million euros, too invasive for the environment and at the time, not essential to the gas supply of France and Europe. Europe.

This gas pipeline already exists as far south as Girona, in Catalonia. It was therefore planned to extend it through the Pyrenees via Le Perthus to a junction on the Carcassonne side. The goal is to supply Europe with liquefied gas from Algeria and the United States. But the European Union gave it up for economic reasons.

The Step project provides for a 120 km long pipeline between Catalonia and Aude. (Image: Teraga)

Spain currently only has two connections with the French gas pipelines, at Irún (Basque Country) and Larrau (Navarre). However, these two pipelines only have a low delivery capacity.

Could this project be relaunched in view of the new international context?

The Spanish Minister of the Economy, Nadia Calviño, said she was in favor of it, while insisting on the fact that this interconnection should also concern the transport of “green hydrogen” and not only gas.
Same speech of Europe delivered by Ursula von der Leyen.

"We have to work on the interconnections. This is one of our priorities,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said.

Portuguese Minister of Foreign Affairs Augusto Santos Silva also relayed a message in favor of the creation of an additional gas pipeline between Spain and France.

Experts Are More Reserved

For Gonzalo Escribano, researcher at the Elcano Institute in Madrid "the context has changed” and could justify "putting the project back on track". But "even if we issue a permit now, the work will last for years, while the needs concern next winter," he warns.

"A project like this requires at least four or five years of work, it’s not a short-term solution," said Thierry Bros, skeptical about the usefulness of such an infrastructure, especially since " Algeria's ability to supplement the Russian supply is limited".

In 2019, energy regulators in France and Spain were against the MidCat gas pipeline. The Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE) in France had announced that it had rejected the gas pipeline project. Just like its Spanish counterpart CNMC explaining that "the project, in its current configuration and capacities, did not meet the needs of the market and did not present sufficient maturity to be able to be the subject of a favorable decision”.

As a result, due to a lack of funding from these two organizations, the France-Spain gas pipeline project remained on the cards.

Opponents in Occitania

The opponents of yesterday and today are now scrutinizing the position of the French government on this file and that of Europe. Because the project had raised a great environmental challenge between 2013 and 2019.

The initial project involved 44 municipalities in Aude and 51 in Pyrénées-Orientales.

The gas pipeline had to be buried at a minimum depth of 1 meter and should have had a diameter of 90 cm with seven to eight "sectioning posts", between the Spanish border and Barbaira which are used for monitoring and maintenance of the network.



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