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Madrid, Lisbon, Paris ditch third gas link project

(Montel) Spanish, Portuguese and French leaders agreed in an informal meeting in Brussels on Thursday to abandon a controversial project for a third gas interconnection between the Iberian peninsula and France.

“We have reached an agreement to replace the Midcat project with a new project called ‘green energy corridor’,” Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez said before he attended the EU Council meeting.

The new interconnector, linking Barcelona with Marseille, would be a subsea pipeline aimed at transporting green hydrogen but it could also transport gas temporarily if required, Sanchez said.

The countries will name the new green pipeline “BarMar”, the leaders said.

“This hydrogen infrastructure must be technically adapted to transport other renewable gases, as well as a limited proportion of natural gas as a temporary and transitional source of energy,” they added.

Spain, Portugal and Germany supported the construction of a new gas interconnector between Iberia and central Europe, via France, but Paris repeatedly refused to develop the Midcat project, deeming it uneconomical and pointing to environmental concerns. 

However, leaders of the southern European countries pledged to “accelerate efforts to finalise the new electricity connection through the Bay of Biscay,” as well as to “identify, assess and implement new electricity interconnection projects connecting France and Spain”.

TSOs have delayed the planned start-up of the new 2.2 GW Bay of Biscay interconnector between France and Spain by two years to 2027, due to a partial re-routing of the 370km link. 

New meeting

Macron, Sanchez and Costa will meet again on 8-9 December in Alicante to address financing and timing for the BarMar project, Sanchez said, without providing any specific date for the start of construction or the completion of the project.

Meanwhile, the prime ministers of Spain and Portugal also agreed to develop a joint Iberian regulation for power storage.

Talks between the Iberian and French governments preceded the EU Council meeting on Thursday, where EU leaders will assess solutions to mitigate the impact of the current energy crisis amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“I am delighted to have breakfast with [Dutch prime minister Mark] Rutte if we reach an agreement for the benefit of the European Union as a whole,” said Sanchez, pointing to expectations of a long council meeting.

The EC is seeking to collar TTF prices but has shied away from an outright cap amid disagreements among member states. It also wants to introduce a separate LNG price index and speed up the introduction of common gas purchases. 

Updates the story at 15:25 CET with further details of the new infrastructure and additional comments from Pedro Sanchez.