Algeria Moves to Halt Gas Exports to Spain via Morocco

The President of Algeria, Abdelmadjid Tebboune has directed state energy firm, Sonatrach, to halt gas exports to Spain through a pipeline that traverses Morocco due to tensions with Rabat.

Sonatrach, Africa’s biggest natural gas exporter has been using the Gaz-Maghreb-Europe (GME) pipeline since 1996 to deliver several billion cubic metres (b¹¹cm) per year to Spain and Portugal but the GME contract is due to expire at midnight Sunday, just over two months after Algiers severed diplomatic ties with Rabat over “hostile actions” accusations Morocco has dismissed.

President Tebboune “ordered the cessation of trade ties between Sonatrach and the Moroccan National Office for Electricity and Potable Water (ONEE), and the non-renewal of the contract, which expires at midnight Sunday,” a statement from the presidency said.

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ONEE said in a statement on Sunday night that the move would not have a significant impact

“In anticipation of this decision, the necessary measures have been taken to ensure the continuity of the country’s electricity supply,” it said.

Tebboune took the decision after consultations with the prime minister and the ministers of energy and foreign affairs “in light of the hostile behaviour of the (Moroccan) kingdom which undermines national unity”, it said.

Algerian and Spanish officials said Algiers would, from now, deliver its natural gas to Spain exclusively through an undersea pipeline to bypass Morocco.

But experts have said the alternative undersea line, known as Medgaz, has a smaller capacity than the GME, amid growing concern in Spain of gas shortages and soaring energy prices across Europe.

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Medgaz can carry eight bcm a year, with planned work to increase its capacity to reach 10.5 bcm.

Algeria has also proposed increasing deliveries of liquefied natural gas (LNG) by sea.

Algeria and Morocco had seen months of tensions, partly over Morocco’s normalisation of ties with Israel in exchange for Washington recognising Rabat’s sovereignty over disputed Western Sahara.

Rabat has rejected the accusations of hostile acts that Algeria has levelled at its neighbour.

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