Spain, Portugal emerge as ‘energy island’ in Europe’s crisis

Mar 29, 2022, 9:22 AM | Updated: 10:05 am
Operators work at the Enagss regasification plant, the largest LNG plant in Europe, in Barcelona, S...

Operators work at the Enagss regasification plant, the largest LNG plant in Europe, in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, March 29, 2022. The energy crisis provoked by Russia's war in Ukraine has helped Spain and Portugal emerge in an strategically advantageous position as an “energy island” in Europe with a relatively low reliance on Russian natural gas. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

(AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Amid the mayhem provoked in the world energy market by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Spain and Portugal have emerged in a strategically advantageous position as an “energy island” in Europe, with a relatively low reliance on Russian natural gas.

Leaders in renewable energy thanks to solar, wind and hydraulic power, Spain and Portugal are now poised to reap the benefits of long-term investments in liquefied natural gas, or LNG.

With six LNG plants in Spain — including Europe’s largest, in Barcelona — and one in Portugal, the Iberian neighbors account for one-third of Europe’s LNG processing capacity. The port-based terminals turn boatloads of supercooled LNG back into gas that then flows into homes and businesses.

“Clearly, this infrastructure gives us more flexibility and strengthens our gas distribution system in comparison to those of other European countries that depend on pipelines,” said Claudio Rodríguez, spokesman for Enagás, the company that runs Spain’s natural gas network.

He spoke Tuesday during a rare tour of the huge cylindrical deposits at the LNG plant in Barcelona’s port.

Spain and Portugal are set to receive more gas imports, along with the rest of Europe, after the United States announced last week that it would help its allies reduce their dependence on Russian gas.

The U.S. said it will boost LNG exports to Europe by 15 billion cubic meters this year, with even larger shipments coming in the future. The U.S. already surpassed Algeria as Spain’s leading source of natural gas at the start of the year.

Spain appeared to be in a vulnerable position last year after Algeria shut down a gas pipeline that runs through Morocco amid a spat with its fellow North African country. Spain deployed diplomats to secure guarantees from Algeria that it would ship LNG. Now, Russia’s war in Ukraine has put Spain in an envious position.

The war has turned Europe’s dependence on Russian gas into a critical strategic liability. In a rush to find alternatives, European Union leaders want to accelerate mid- to long-term goals to shift further into renewable energy, while finding alternative sources of natural gas in the meantime. Russia has kept the gas flowing for now but has turned off the taps in the past during spats with Ukraine and Belarus.

The crisis also has shown that the EU, despite being a common market for 27 nations, has major internal bottlenecks in its energy distribution system.

There are scant energy connections between Spain and Portugal and rest of Europe. That is behind an unprecedented shift in EU policy last week when the Iberian countries were allowed to propose their own price control mechanisms to tackle soaring energy costs across the continent.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his Portuguese counterpart, António Costa, successfully argued that the relative isolation of their countries from the rest of the EU market, forming what Sánchez’s government calls an “energy island,” and their high use of renewables meant that they should be temporarily released from the common market rules.

The LNG arriving to Spain could in theory be sent on to needier neighbors further east, but there’s no easy way to get it there. Spain and France share two small gas pipelines that can transport the equivalent of seven boatloads of LNG each month, while Spain received 27 boatloads at its terminals in March, in addition to natural gas pumped through an Algerian pipeline, according to Enagas.

There is talk in Madrid and Brussels about reviving a plan to build a larger pipeline for gas and green hydrogen energy to cross the Pyrenees, but even if that gets funding, it would take several years to start working. And there would still need to be more work in France to help get the gas to where it’s really needed.

In the meantime, Rodríguez said Spain’s LNG terminals could be used to send along ships of LNG to other European ports to “reinforce Europe’s gas and energy systems.”

Experts agree, however, that if Europe wants energy autonomy, it must strengthen its connections.

“Spain is part of the solution, but, unfortunately, it is limited in what it can do,” said Gonzalo Escribano, energy and climate analyst of Spain’s Elcano Institute think tank.

“For years, Spain has been issuing warnings to other member states on their dependence on Russia … (now) we want to turn off the Russian tap, and, dear sirs, we can’t.”

___

AP writer Aritz Parra contributed from Madrid.

___

Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks at the launch of 5G services in India, in New Delhi, Sat...
Associated Press

India launches 5G services, Modi calls it step in new era

NEW DELHI (AP) — Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched 5G services in India on Saturday, calling it a “step towards the new era.” The launch in select cities will cover the entire country over the next couple of years, a government statement said. Modi launched the much-awaited services that aim to provide seamless coverage, high […]
2 hours ago
FILE - Malaysia Airlines planes taxi at a terminal while taking passengers at Kuala Lumpur Internat...
Associated Press

Malaysia aims to add US flights after safety rating boost

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has upgraded Malaysia’s air safety rating to Category 1, allowing the country’s carriers to expand flights to the United States after a three-year hiatus, Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong said Saturday. Wee said the move will bolster tourism and economic growth in Malaysia, which opened […]
2 hours ago
FILE - A view of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant and the Dnipro river on the other side of Nikopol, ...
Associated Press

Russia accused of ‘kidnapping’ head of Ukraine nuclear plant

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s nuclear power provider accused Russia on Saturday of “kidnapping” the head of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, a facility now occupied by Russian troops and located in a region of Ukraine that Russian President Vladimir Putin has moved to annex illegally. Russian forces seized the director-general of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear […]
1 day ago
Latvians mark their ballots at a polling station during general elections in Riga, Latvia, Saturday...
Associated Press

Latvian leader’s party expected to fare well in election

HELSINKI (AP) — Polling stations opened Saturday in Latvia for a general election influenced by neighboring Russia’s attack on Ukraine, divisions among the Baltic country’s sizable ethnic-Russian minority and the economy, particularly high energy prices. Several polls showed the center-right New Unity party of Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins emerging as the top vote-getter, with up […]
1 day ago
The founder Te-Wang Lin of the Taiwan People Communist Party places a Chinese police hat down on th...
Associated Press

Hong Kong leader promises revival on China’s National Day

BEIJING (AP) — Hong Kong’s leader promised Saturday to revive its struggling economy following a campaign to crush a pro-democracy movement as China’s ruling Communist Party marked its 73rd anniversary in power under strict anti-virus controls. In Beijing, crowds of spectators watched a 96-member honor guard raise the Chinese flag on Tiananmen Square in the […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

1 teen killed, 1 wounded in Tulsa homecoming game shooting

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A teenager was killed and another was wounded in a shooting at a high school homecoming football game in Oklahoma Friday night, police said. The victims, both 17, were shot during the event at McLain High School for Science and Technology shortly before 10 p.m., according to a statement by the […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
SCHWARTZ LASER EYE CENTER

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
Spain, Portugal emerge as ‘energy island’ in Europe’s crisis