Morocco and Algeria, next episode

Morocco already has everything ready for Spain to send gas through the Maghreb Europe gas pipeline, the conduction of two pipelines that Algeria closed in November last year after breaking diplomatic relations with its neighboring country, with which so many tensions accumulate.

NewsEditor
NewsEditor
24 June 2022 Friday 12:26
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Morocco and Algeria, next episode

Morocco already has everything ready for Spain to send gas through the Maghreb Europe gas pipeline, the conduction of two pipelines that Algeria closed in November last year after breaking diplomatic relations with its neighboring country, with which so many tensions accumulate. The gas pipeline, which reaches Spain through the Strait of Gibraltar, will soon operate in the opposite direction: from north to south. It could happen in the next two weeks.

Morocco needs the gas that it obtained as a toll from the Maghreb Europe, some one billion cubic meters per year (1 bcm), which was used to manufacture electricity at the Tahaddart (near Tangiers) and Ain Beni Mathar (in the east , near the border with Algeria). Rabat also charged an economic toll. Those compensations were subject to tense periodic reviews until Algeria decided not to renegotiate the 25-year contract that expired last fall. With this measure, they left Morocco without gas and sent a warning to Spain, which was trying to rebuild its relations with Morocco.

Since then, Algerian gas has only reached Spain through the Medgaz (direct connection that runs through the Alboran Sea), conduction of a single pipeline that cannot absorb all the fuel transported by the Maghreb Europe. Pay attention to this figure, which helps us explain a significant development in recent months: Spain is already importing more gas from the United States than from Algeria.

Morocco made it clear that the Algerian decision did not affect it. Rabat was proudly silent, but very discreetly asked Spain for help: "We need you to send us gas." The Maghreb Europe can work in two directions, but that cannot be resolved in two days. The compression stations must be adapted. This technical work was done quietly before Morocco and Spain staged their reconciliation, last March, to the stupor and irritation of the Algerian Government at the Spanish turn on the issue of Western Sahara.

In a few words, the shipment of gas from Spain to Morocco is part of the package of measures for the normalization of relations between the two countries.

Where will that gas come from? Morocco will buy it from countries that export liquefied natural gas (LNG) and it will be unloaded at a Spanish regasification plant to be injected into the network. The Algerian reaction was sudden: "Not one molecule of Algerian gas for Morocco!" Algeria does not want Spanish import companies to resell their gas to Morocco. Since the molecules do not carry a label, Spain has asked Morocco to scrupulously certify the purchase of LNG from third parties.

It has not been easy, since the spot market (cash) is very saturated as a result of the war in Ukraine. Finally, Morocco is about to close its first contract, as announced last Monday by the Minister of Energy, Leila Benali.

In short, the Government of Spain will have to make a very delicate decision: to authorize the Gibraltar tube to run in the opposite direction, from north to south. Morocco expects it and relations with Algeria are worse than ever. Surely this decision should be communicated to the European Union to prevent political risks.

And next week the NATO General Assembly meets in Madrid.

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