North African gas to reach Central Europe through Catalonia by 2020 to reduce 40% Russian dependency

From left to right: Hollande, Rajoy and Passos Coelho, before re-launching the Midcat project (by La Moncloa / ACN)

A strategic gas pipeline is to be built through the Catalan Pyrenees, linking the Iberian Peninsula with French and Central European networks. The Midcat project aims to reduce Europe’s dependency on Russian gas by 40%, diversifying the sources of supply. The pipeline should be operational by 2020, announced the Spanish Minister for Industry, José Manuel Soria, on Thursday in Brussels. The day before, French President, François Hollande, Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, Portuguese PM, Pedro Passos Coelho, and current President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, signed the ‘Madrid Declaration’ re-launching the project.

In fact, the Midcat pipeline started to be planned in 2007 and an 88-kilometre stretch has already been built in Catalonia. However, despite its strategic importance for the entire continent, the project was halted for several years, mainly due to a lack of interest from French companies and institutions, which were not guaranteeing to build their part. Now, the conflict in Ukraine and thecrisis with Russia has reignited the urge to find alternative gas suppliers forCentral Europe. Catalonia is in a privileged position to act as a natural link between Northern Africa and Central Europe

The Midcat pipeline will be a piece of strategic infrastructure for the entire European Union, linking the gas networks of Spain and France. This represents linking the Iberian Peninsula – which has direct connections with North African gas fields and hosts many gas processing plants – with Central Europe, which is almost totally dependent on Russian gas. Its foreseen initial capacity stands at 230 GWh/d from Spain to France and 80 GWh/d from France to Spain. The Spanish company Enagas and the French firms TIGF and GRT-Gaz were in charge of the project.

Enagas should have built 195 kilometres between Martorell (in Greater Barcelona) and the French border, passing through the city of Figueres. 88 kilometres between Martorell and Hostalric (near Girona) have already been built. It is the only stretch of the project that has been constructed. TIGF should have built a 120 kilometres pipeline between the French border and Barbaira (near Narbonne), while GRT was in charge of the 190 kilometre stretch between this town and the Rhône.

José Manuel Soria explained that the construction will start again after a few technical problems are solved. He expects construction to start in 2016 and the pipeline to become operational “around 2020”. Soria stressed that the Midcat project is “a very important agreement” which has a significant geopolitical importance. The project will be funded through the European Fund for Strategic Investments and other European funds, such as those promoting inter-connections and regional co-operation.




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