IRUN, Spain, Sept 22 (Reuters) – The capacity of a Spain-France gas pipeline has been increased and can be used immediately if needed, Spain’s energy minister said on Thursday.
Grid operator Enagas ENAG.MC said, however, the plan was to start pumping from Nov. 1.
Enagas and French counterpart Terega have maximised the use of compressors in the link that goes from the northern Spanish town of Irun across the Pyrenees mountain range, boosting its capacity by 1.5 billion cubic metres (bcm) a year.
That represents an 18% increase in Spain’s piped gas export capacity, meaning that it could supply the equivalent of 6% of France’s natural gas consumption.
“The station is already technically ready to send that gas when our French neighbours request it,” Energy Minister Teresa Ribera said during a visit to the facilities in Irun.
There are two existing pipelines between Spain and France, and a third interconnection is being mulled amid a European energy crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Ribera reiterated that the idea of a third pipeline, dubbed Midcat, was not buried despite France’s objections.
“There is no end in sight to this war (in Ukraine). That is precisely why we need to be strategic…let’s think about the following winters. Renewable energies and interconnections to make them flow between friendly countries are the only way out,” she added.
Spain will also enhance the facilities of Enagas’ regasification plant in the port of Barcelona to “maximise solidarity with Italy”, Ribera said, explaining that a jetty at the port will be adapted to increase loading capacity for vessels carrying gas to Italy, she explained.
Spain and Portugal have seven LNG terminals they say could help supply central Europe if additional pipelines are built.
France is against building a third pipeline between it and Spain, arguing the two existing pipelines are under-utilised with flows going mainly towards Spain.
That was true at this time last year, with Spain importing a net 6,172 GWh of energy between January and August via the two gas pipelines from its northern neighbour, data from Enagas showed.
This year, however, with France’s nuclear fleet currently at less than 50% of capacity, Spain has exported a net 13,075 GWh of energy to France through the pipelines.