Spain chides French reluctance to finish Pyrenees gas pipeline

Barcelona's Enagas regasification plant. Spain and Portugal have large gas import capacity. PHOTO: AFP

MADRID (REUTERS) - A Spanish government minister on Tuesday (Aug 30) criticised France's reluctance to support reviving a project to build a third gas connection through the Pyrenees mountains to reduce Europe's reliance on Russian gas.

Russia's decision to halt gas supplies via a major pipeline for three days from Wednesday has heaped even more pressure on Europe to refuel ahead of winter and guard against any further fallout from the conflict in Ukraine.

Spain and Portugal have large gas import capacity and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz suggested as the crisis worsened that a pipeline from Portugal through Spain and France to central Europe could help the situation. France has demurred, favouring new LNG terminals instead.

Spanish Energy and Environment Minister Teresa Ribera was asked on local radio about reviving construction of a gas pipeline through the Pyrenees that was partially built before being shelved in 2019.

"We need to prepare for next winter and in this context being able to complete an interconnection that didn't make economic sense (in 2019)... but that could be key now to bring this supply that central and northern Europe lacks, the question is, sorry, but is this in France's interest or in the interest of central and northern Europe?" Ms Ribera said.

Ms Ribera and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez have said repeatedly that the European Union would have to pay for any new energy interconnections.

France said earlier this month that new LNG terminals, which can be made to float, in northern and eastern Europe, particularly Germany, would be a quicker and cheaper option than a new pipeline.

Ms Ribera said the transit route into France could be finished in time for winter 2023, while another potential pipeline route, undersea from the eastern Spanish port of Barcelona to Livorno in Italy, would take much longer.

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