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The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has warned Spain that supplies of natural gas to the Iberian peninsula may become short due to diplomatic conflicts involving Algeria and Morocco.



Electricity prices continue to rise in Spain without any apparent limit and this is due, in part, to the price of natural gas, which, as the German newspaper warns, may become scarce on the Iberian peninsula. Spain receives approximately 45 percent of its natural gas via the Morocco-Europe gas pipeline and this makes it strongly dependent on two North African countries: Algeria and Morocco.

A conflict with consequences

Since Spain's foreign ministry granted permission for a health-related visit by the leader of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, things have gone from bad to worse. First, there was an open diplomatic breach between Spain and Morocco over the entry of thousands of would-be migrants into the Spanish enclave city of Ceuta.

However, Algeria had assisted in the trip to Spain by the Western Sahara liberation movement leader, providing him with an Algerian plane. This automatic support in Algeria for the separatists was not well received by the Moroccan regime. The conflict between the North African countries escalated until, in late August, the Algerian government severed diplomatic relations with its neighbour.


Gas pipelines from Algeria to Europe: showing the Maghreb-Europe pipeline at far left (reaching Spain via Morocco) and the Medgaz pipeline (reaching Spain directly across the Mediterranean) 

Algeria has now warned that in October it will reduce its natural gas supply and even threatens to turn off the tap completely. They want to prevent Morocco from continuing to benefit from their gas and are refusing to extend the pipeline contract: until now, Morocco was allowed to keep 7 percent of the transported material, which covered almost half of its natural gas needs.

The alternative pipeline route to Spain, the Medgaz pipeline going directly across the Mediterranean, does not have the capacity on its own to transport all the gas currently reaching the Iberian peninsula. 

Largest supplier to Spain

At the end of September, the new Spanish foreign minister, José Manuel Albares, travelled to Algeria together with the heads of the energy multinational Naturgy and the state-controlled operator of the gas pipeline, Enagas. According to the Spanish ministry, Algeria is committed to fulfilling its delivery promises.

The carbon steel gas pipeline, more than 1,400 kilometres long, brings Morocco about 800 million cubic metres of natural gas, which covers much of the country's energy needs, as well as commissions of around 7%, implying income of about 200 million euros a year.

Morocco is aware of Spain's dependence on Algeria and has taken measures in recent years to fortify its own energy security. “It has recognized plans to develop local renewable sources, for example, and is also working on a possible plan for LNG imports, through a floating storage and regasification unit,” explains Ed Reed, an energy analyst and expert in the region.

Algeria is the largest supplier of natural gas to Spain. It is followed by Nigeria, Russia, the USA and Qatar.

Main image: Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor until a new government is formed.