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Five questions about the MidCat pipeline alternative announced by France, Spain and Portugal

Paris will have won the showdown.

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Five questions about the MidCat pipeline alternative announced by France, Spain and Portugal

Paris will have won the showdown. France, Spain and Portugal announced on Thursday, October 20, that they had reached an agreement to replace the MidCat project with an undersea pipeline between Barcelona and Marseille, intended to transport gas and then green hydrogen. Initially launched in 2003, the MidCat (short for Midi-Catalonia) project aimed to link the French and Spanish gas networks via a 190-kilometre pipeline from Hostalric, north of Barcelona, ​​to Barbaira, east of Carcassonne, through the Pyrenees.

"We have agreed to replace the MidCat project with a new project, which will be called the Green Energy Corridor, to connect the Iberian Peninsula to France and therefore to the European energy market between Barcelona and Marseille (from where the nickname "BarMar")", explained the head of the Spanish government, Pedro Sanchez, on his arrival in Brussels for a European summit devoted to the energy crisis. “It is a question of creating a pipeline for green hydrogen but also temporarily for gas, which the European energy market needs”, he detailed.

According to the Spanish daily El Pais, this agreement is "win-win": "it makes it possible to achieve the objective of Spain and Portugal to emerge from their energy isolation while being 'at the height' of French policy energy transition, as Macron said in this regard." For its part, Germany also welcomes a decision that brings the negotiations out of the "impasse" in which they found themselves.

Stubbornly defended by Madrid and Lisbon, but also by Berlin, which sees it as a way of reducing the EU's dependence on Russian gas, the MidCat was to allow Spain, which has 30% of the capacity European Unions for the regasification of liquefied natural gas (LNG), to export gas, which comes by ship from the United States or Qatar, to the rest of Europe. This project should also make it possible in the longer term to transport green hydrogen, the energy of the future produced thanks to renewable energies, of which Spain wants to be one of the champions.

This project was abandoned in 2019 due to its environmental impact and an economic interest then considered limited. It was the French who stood apart; the Spaniards, the Portuguese and the Germans were convinced of the usefulness of this gas pipeline. "I do not understand why we would jump like goats from the Pyrenees on this subject to explain that this would solve the gas problem: it is false", had rebuked Emmanuel Macron.

In September, the Head of State highlighted the "environmental opposition" to this infrastructure, "which is not without foundation". He claimed that there was "no need for Spain to export its gas capacities to France" since the peninsula currently uses the gas pipelines linking it to France to "import" gas. “All the experts say it today: it is wrong to say that a gas pipeline will be able to transport hydrogen tomorrow, this will require very heavy new work,” added the French president. Thursday, October 20, the daily El Pais hailed "the unequaled resistance" of Emmanuel Macron against the "great European locomotive" that is Germany.

"No to more natural gas tubes (MidCat abandoned) but yes to green interconnections with Spain (wind, solar, clean hydrogen...)", enthused on Twitter, MEP Christophe Grudler. This underwater gas pipeline should still retain a capacity to transport, in a "limited" way, natural gas, "temporary and transient source of energy", details the Elysée. In other words, in the event of an energy crisis requiring the use of gas, "BarMar" will be able to supply it. But it will primarily be designed to carry greener energy.

The decision is difficult to understand and considered hypocritical for the ecologist MEP Marie Toussaint. “Macron was defending the climate by opposing MidCat, but has just accepted a new maritime gas connection,” she tweeted. In the Pyrénées-Orientales, the local collective "Non au MidCat" says it is "relieved if the gas pipeline project avoids scarring the Pyrenees, Roussillon and Corbières". But opponents of the Franco-Spanish gas pipeline consider that this new project remains "an aberration for the climate and biodiversity".

Pedro Sanchez, Emmanuel Macron and Antonio Costa are due to meet on December 8 and 9 in Alicante, Spain to finalize the deal. This project would, unlike the MidCat, "intended to benefit from European funding", indicated Emmanuel Macron ahead of the European Council. "The objective is to work on the intensification of our electrical interconnections and the densification of these, and to work on a hydrogen and renewable energy interconnection between Barcelona and Marseille", supported the French president.

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