MADRID, Aug 12 (Reuters) – A potential new gas connection between Spain and France could be ready to operate in less than a year’s time, Spanish Energy Minister Teresa Ribera said on Friday, if France and other European countries agreed on the project.
The European Union is racing to wean itself off Russian natural gas after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, bringing new interconnection projects into focus. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday pushed for the construction of a pipeline from Portugal via Spain and France to central Europe.
“This new interconnection, this gas pipeline could be operating in about eight or nine months on the southern side of the border, that is, from the Pyrenees to Spain,” Ribera told the national broadcaster TVE.
The France-Spain connection would require laying another segment of pipeline to connect the Spanish grid to the French one.
Scholz said that a pipeline connecting the Iberian peninsula with central Europe would “massively relieve the supply situation now”, adding that he had already spoken to leaders from Spain, Portugal, France and the European Commission about it.
Portugal’s Prime Minister Antonio Costa said Scholz’s statement “reinforces the pressure on the European institutions to unblock this situation once and for all” and suggested that an alternative to a link via France would be a sea-based pipeline from Spain to Italy.
Spain and Portugal have long pushed for a new pipeline, given their capacity to receive shipments of liquefied natural gas that could be sent on to the rest of Europe.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has said the European Union had to pay for interconnections.
Spanish gas grid operator Enagas CEO Arturo Gonzalo Aizpiri recently said the full pipeline project between France and Spain, which was abandoned in 2019 after regulators deemed it financially unviable, could be completed at a cost of 600 million-700 million euros in 2-1/2 years.
(Reporting by Christina Thykjaer, editing by Inti Landauro and Ros Russell)