Gas transport between Spain and Morocco through the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline that connects Tangier with Tarifa is back on stream after more than half a year without activity. This time it is in reverse, from Spain to Morocco. This is the first time in history that Spain has exported gas to Morocco.
Teresa Ribera, Vice-President of the Government and Minister for Ecological Transition, announced in April that the Maghreb-Europe infrastructure would be used to transport gas to Morocco, which provoked the anger of Algeria, which imposed as a condition that Algerian gas could not be exported to Morocco.
With these measures and in a very small quantity (12.8 GW/h per day), the connection between Spain and Morocco was reopened on 28 June, according to the daily monitoring data provided by Enagás. According to Minister Ribera's statements, none of the gas transported to Morocco comes from Algeria.
Ribera's ministry explained that in order to certify the non-Algerian origin of the gas sent to Morocco, a special verification process would be carried out by the state-owned company Enagás. Algeria has yet to comment on the start of this new stage of energy exchange.
According to the Spanish government, the operations have consisted of transporting non-liquefied gas to the Tarifa plants for conversion and subsequent transport through the pipeline. The main interest is to take advantage of the Spanish infrastructure. Morocco does not yet have regasification plants. At the beginning of 2022, it launched the project to start up the country's first one in the port of Mohammed, the industrial area a few kilometres north of Casablanca. This regasification plant is included in the Moroccan kingdom's Agenda 2030 plan and is endowed with 4 million dirhams in funding so far. It is envisaged that the plant will be floating, for better operability with gas tankers.
The resumption of gas transport between Spain and Morocco comes just as Algerian state-owned gas company Sonatrach claimed to have successfully explored the largest gas field in 20 years at Hassi R'Mel. The NATO summit in Madrid and the hosting of the Mediterranean Games in Algiers are also part of the context.
According to sources consulted by El Mundo, if the reactivation of the pipeline has been delayed until now, it is due to the refusal of the major energy traders to provide this service. Companies such as Naturgy are said to have rejected the Moroccan government's offers. This refusal would be justified in an attempt to avoid tensions with Algeria. Naturgy is the Spanish company that collaborates most with Sonatrach in the gas exchange between Spain and Algeria. The Spanish energy company has 49% ownership of the Medgaz pipeline, shared with Sonatrach, which holds the remaining 49%. Naturgy has not denied this information.
Algeria cut off the passage of gas through the Maghreb-Europe pipeline on 31 October 2021 by not renewing the concession to Morocco. This pipeline, inaugurated in 1996, connects the Hasi R'Mel gas fields with Europe through Morocco via its 1430-kilometre length. Prior to the cut, caused by diplomatic tension between the two eternal rivals in the Maghreb, Spain received around 250 Gw/h per day via this route, in parallel to the MedGaz pipeline.
In Morocco, the Maghreb-Europe has four technical stops on Moroccan infrastructure along its 570 km overland route. Aín Benimathar, near the Algerian border, M'Soun in the Taza region, Aín Dorij and finally Tangier, where the compressor station is located. From Maghreb-Europe, Morocco obtained enough gas to run two combined cycle power plants that generated 17% of Morocco's electricity production before the pipeline was shut down.