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Spain replaces Algeria to deliver gas to Morocco


Written by Frédéric Dubessy on Tuesday, February 8th 2022 à 11:55 | Read 990 times



SPAIN / MOROCCO / ALGERIA. The Spanish and Moroccan governments signed an agreement on gas on Thursday 3 February 2022. Following its decision to unilaterally break off all relations with Morocco at the end of August 2021, Algeria decided on 31 October 2021 not to renew its contract (running for 25 years) for the transit through Morocco of the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline (GME).

The Maghreb-Europe pipeline had been delivering Algerian gas (10 billion cubic metres annually) via Morocco to Spain and Portugal since November 1996. Rabat could thus take 97% of its gas needs at preferential prices from Sonatrach as a "right of way".

To ensure its energy security and its annual needs of about 1 billion cubic metres of gas, Rabat therefore turned to Madrid (still supplied with Algerian gas through the Medgaz submarine pipeline - see box below) to solve its problem. "Morocco has asked for support to guarantee its energy security on the basis of [our] commercial relations, and Spain has responded favourably, as it would have done for any partner or neighbour," says the Spanish Ministry of Ecological Transition. It states, "Morocco will be able to acquire liquefied natural gas (LNG) on the international markets, have it delivered to a regasification plant in peninsular Spain and use the Maghreb gas pipeline (GME) to transport it to its territory". The Spanish gas network operator Enagàs will reverse the GME flows and set an exit tariff, as is the case for Portugal and France.

Floating LNG terminal project in Morocco

This solution is temporary. At the end of November 2021, the Moroccan government signed a protocol with the British company Sound Energy for the supply of gas from a field in Tendrara, in eastern Morocco. The agreement covers the delivery of up to 350 million cubic metres of LNG per year for ten years to the Office National de l'Electricité et de l'Eau Potable (Onee) via the Moroccan part of the GME.

In addition, a project to build an LNG terminal in the port of Mohammedia is reportedly under study. Located near Casablanca, it would be the first port in the Kingdom to have a floating terminal for importing LNG. "Morocco has invited a select group of LNG traders to bid for contracts," said Leila Benali, Morocco's minister for energy transition and sustainable development.

Spain is also preparing to be approached by other EU member states following the threat of conflict in Ukraine. In the event of war, Russian gas supplies could be cut off. The Spanish have three ports to receive LNG tankers carrying LNG by sea: Bilbao (on the Atlantic Ocean), Huelva (at the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar) and Sagonte (on the Mediterranean Sea near Valencia).

Algerian gas pipelines, in yellow the GME and in blue Medgaz (map: CC BY-SA 3.0)
Algerian gas pipelines, in yellow the GME and in blue Medgaz (map: CC BY-SA 3.0)
Two gas pipelines between Algeria and Spain

Operational since November 1996 and with a total length of 1,300 km, the Algeria-Europe Gas Pipeline (GME or Pedro Duran Farrell-GPDF pipeline) links the Algerian Hassi R'Mel field (the largest on the African continent, 550 km south of Algiers) to Cordoba in Andalusia via Morocco (540 km) and the Strait of Gibraltar for the submarine part (45 km).

Algiers decided on 31 October 2021 not to renew the operating contract. But the GME can still be used in the Spain-Morocco direction.

Since 1 March 2011, the Medgaz or GZ4 pipeline (210 km long) has allowed the Algerian facilities at Béni Saf (north of the country) to ship LNG directly to the port of Almeria in Spain by passing under the Mediterranean Sea (2000 metres deep). About 60% of this gas is intended for Spanish consumption and 40% for export. Medgaz is 51% owned by Algeria's Sonatrach and 49% by Spain's Naturgy (formerly Gas Natural).

GME has an export capacity of 12 billion cubic metres against 8 billion (10.5 after a planned extension) for Medgaz.

In 2021, Algeria supplied 42% of the total gas imported into Spain.



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