When the US and EU agreed to boost gas trade to Europe this week, Spain would have been justified in crying victory, having only recently offered its services with its many liquified natural gas (LNG) ports.
Madrid: When the US and EU agreed to boost gas trade to Europe this week, Spain would have been justified in crying victory, having only recently offered its services with its many liquified natural gas (LNG) ports.
There's a slight problem, though: it may have the capacity to import gas but it's badly connected to the European network of pipelines, an issue on the table at a trilateral meeting between French, Portuguese and Spanish leaders in Lisbon.
For years, Spain and Portugal have called for an end to their isolation from European networks of electricity and gas distribution. And whereas electricity connections are being built, there is little progress on gas.
- Many ports, few pipelines - During a NATO summit at the beginning of July in Brussels, US President Donald Trump criticised EU dependence on Russian gas and asked Europeans to buy US gas instead.
Madrid immediately offered its services, Foreign Minister Josep Borrell revealed this week.
"Us Spaniards are importing more and more American gas, which already represents 25 percent of our supply, and Portugal and Spain have terminals that would allow us to unload American LNG tankers and transport the gas via pipelines," he told reporters.
As if answering Madrid's offer, Trump, joined by European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, said Wednesday that the two key economies reached an agreement to boost EU imports of US gas, which is liquified and transported by tanker before being gasified again.
Spain has six regasification terminals, more than any other European country.
But so far there is just one pipeline linking it to France and the rest of Europe.
Not enough, says Spain.
"If American gas arrives on the (Iberian) peninsula and can't go any further, we have a problem," said Borrell.
As such, Madrid has long been promoting the construction of a second pipeline through the northeastern region of Catalonia.
The project, called Midcat, was broached at a first trilateral summit on energy connections in March 2015 in Madrid.
But Gonzalo Escribano, an energy expert at Spain's Elcano Institute think tank, said Friday's meeting was unlikely to yield any progress.
"We don't know who would pay, and the French are putting the brakes on," he said.
View all SMART GRID Bulletins click here