Algeria temporarily suspends gas supplies to Spain amid pipeline malfunction

Incident in Medgaz underwater natural gas pipeline comes as Europe faces possibility of gas shortages

A sign near the Medgaz pipe, a natural gas pipeline between Algeria and Spain, at the landfall site in Almeria, Spain. Reuters
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Algeria temporarily suspended the supply of gas to Spain due to a malfunction in a key natural gas pipeline that connects the two countries.

The incident in the Medgaz underwater natural gas pipeline comes as European countries face the prospect of gas shortages as the EU continues to impose sanctions on Russia, its main gas supplier, over Moscow's military offensive in Ukraine.

“The Spanish technical teams are working to carry out the necessary repairs and restore the gas supply to Spain as soon as possible,” Algeria's oil and gas company Sonatrach said in a statement carried by the state-run Algeria Press Agency on Sunday.

It added that the malfunction occurred on the Spanish side of the pipeline.

Sonatrach and Spain’s Naturgy jointly own the Medgaz pipeline, which previously had a capacity of eight billion cubic metres per year but this has been expanded to a capacity of up to 10.7 bcm per year.

Medgaz is the only pipeline currently operational between Spain and Algeria after supplies through the GME pipeline were suspended late last year due to a row between Algeria and Morocco.

In 2021, Algerian gas exports via the Medgaz pipeline averaged 22 million cubic metres per day, data from S&P Global Commodity Insights showed.

Spanish gas grid operator Enagas, meanwhile, has denied that Algerian supplies to Spain through the Medgaz pipeline have been cut due to the incident.

“According to information received from Medgaz, during routine maintenance work at the Beni Saaf Compression Station, there was a two-hour temporary stoppage of flows from the Algerian plant to the Almeria International Connection,” Enagas said in a statement on its website.

“This has led to a decrease — but not a cessation — in the flows entering Spain via this international connection. The problem has been solved and flows are recovering normally.

“There has been no effect on the security of supply, there has been no technical reason for this situation, nor has any action been required to resolve it.”

The EU, which imports the majority of its gas supplies from Russia, has been aggressively seeking alternatives amid concerns that Russia may halt supply over the Ukraine conflict.

In 2021, the group members imported 155 bcm of natural gas from Russia, which accounted for about 45 per cent of EU gas imports and close to 40 per cent of its total gas consumption, the International Energy Agency reported.

Updated: July 25, 2022, 3:53 PM