After meeting in Brussels on Thursday, October 20th, France, Spain, and Portugal announced an agreement to build an undersea pipeline from Barcelona to Marseille and to increase the connectivity of their electricity infrastructure.
In a short meeting ahead of a summit of EU leaders in Brussels, Spanish president Pedro Sanchez, Portuguese prime minister Antonio Costa, and French president Emmanuel Macron agreed to end discussions of the long-proposed overland MidCat pipeline and instead start plans for a much shorter undersea pipeline, named the BarMar pipeline, projected to run 360 kilometres along the bed of the Mediterranean Sea from Barcelona to Marseille. Touted as a ‘Green Energy Corridor,’ the undersea pipeline will be designed to carry natural gas, hydrogen, and “other renewable gases.”
Germany also supports the project.
Additionally, “the three leaders expressed their full support for accelerating and expanding the electrical interconnections between the Iberian Peninsula and France, in order to achieve an electrically connected Europe,” a joint statement said.
Under the EU’s push for alternatives to Russian natural gas, the BarMar pipeline and any other proposed energy connectivity projects could qualify for EU funding.
But the prospective undersea pipeline, though much needed, will not solve the present energy crisis, as it will take approximately five years to construct. The leaders are set to meet again in December to start discussing technical details.
Spain and Portugal, with the support of Germany, had advocated for almost a decade for the 1,250-kilometre MidCat Pipeline over the Pyrenees and through France to help get natural gas imported to Spain all the way to central Europe. France, however, has consistently opposed the project, even while the energy crisis has exposed the continent’s infrastructural incapacity to facilitate alternatives to Russian natural gas.
As Russia has slowly reduced much of its pipeline natural gas supplies to Europe, the continent has had to buy natural gas from various suppliers in the form of liquid natural gas (LNG) carried on cargo ships.
With almost 40% of the continent’s infrastructure for importing LNG, Spain is Europe’s LNG hub. But deliveries of LNG are backed up in the Mediterranean Sea—dozens of ships are anchored outside of ports waiting to unload—because there are only two low-capacity pipelines to transport the regasified LNG to France, and beyond.