NATO has “plans” to build a pipeline that would connect Catalonia, Spain and France in order to reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian natural gas, the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia has reported, citing anonymous sources in the country’s government.
The proposed structure could reportedly be used to transfer around 7 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year from Algeria and foreign LNG shipments. The latter could be stored and processed in eight LNG plants located in Spain and Portugal, the newspaper said. La Vanguardia’s sources claim the proposal is on NATO’s “working table” and that Germany is “very interested” in the project.
The pipeline project itself is not new and is known as Midcat. It was first proposed three years ago, but was rejected by Spanish and French regulators as potentially unprofitable due to Europe’s plans to achieve net-zero emissions by the middle of the century via the use of green energy.
The reports of a new pipeline being discussed come in the wake of a tough year for the European energy industry, which faced spiking gas prices in 2021. The price tag first breached the ceiling of $1,000 per thousand cubic meters due to the EU’s reservoirs being half full after a tough winter, only to reach $2,000 at the end of the year.
The skyrocketing prices were generally put down to the EU’s failure to fill up its reservoirs in 2021, growing consumption amid the closing of several nuclear power plants in Europe, and the failure to buy extra LNG abroad due to Asian nations buying up all the free stocks of it. Yet, numerous European politicians and their American allies blamed Russia and the EU’s dependency on gas supplies from Moscow.
Moscow and the Russian gas exporting company Gazprom rejected the accusations, with both stressing that the country has fulfilled all of its contractual obligations on natural gas supplies.
At the same time, a joint EU-Russian venture, the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which was finished in September 2021, still remains non-operational due to a lack of certification. The process of issuing the latter was put “on pause” according to German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. Berlin claims the pipeline, which could pump up to 55 billion cubic metres of gas per year, might be violating European energy laws, specifically the Third Energy Package.
However, there have been several media reports, as well as suggestions from American politicians, that Nord Stream 2’s future might fall victim to Western sanctions against Russia in the context of ongoing tensions around Ukraine.