Algerian gas to Spain will bypass Morocco: Ministers

Algeria will from now on deliver its natural gas to Spain exclusively through an undersea pipeline, ministers from both countries reportedly said Wednesday, after Algiers abandoned use of a line through Morocco.

In August Algeria cut diplomatic ties with its Maghreb neighbour Morocco which it accused of “hostile actions.” 

Algeria, Africa’s biggest natural gas exporter, had been using the Gaz-Maghreb-Europe (GME) pipeline since 1996 to deliver several billion cubic metres (bcm) per year to Spain and Portugal.

But the GME contract is due to expire at the end of October, and Algiers decided not to renew it because of the diplomatic tensions with Rabat.

Experts had said the alternative undersea line, known as Medgaz, does not have the capacity to make up the shortfall. They earlier feared that supplies could be cut, just as energy prices soar in Europe ahead of winter.

Medgaz is already operating near its full capacity of eight bcm per year — around half total Algerian gas exports to Spain.

Algeria’s Minister of Energy and Mines Mohamed Arkab, speaking after talks with Spain’s Minister for Ecological Transition Teresa Ribera, said his country, through state energy firm Sonatrach, “will honour its commitments to Spain”, according to the official APS news agency.

“The Spanish partners were reassured that Algeria will provide all the supply expected. We equally commit ourselves to making all deliveries through Algerian installations, via the Medgaz pipeline and gas conversion complexes,” Arkab said.

He spoke of extending capacity of the Medgaz line and an expansion of liquefied natural gas exports by sea.

Sonatrach and its Spanish partner Naturgy have vowed to boost Medgaz’s capacity to 10 bcm per year in the coming months, but that still falls far short of the total needed at current levels.

Maghreb geopolitics expert Geoff Porter earlier told AFP that the shipping option did not make financial sense.

According to APS, Ribera said she had been assured by her Algerian counterpart of “arrangements taken to continue to assure, in the best way, deliveries of gas through Medgaz according to a well determined schedule.”

Algeria and Morocco had seen months of tensions, partly over Morocco’s normalisation of ties with Israel in exchange for Washington’s recognising Rabat’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.

Rabat rejected the various accusations of hostile acts which Algeria levelled at its neighbour.