Spain begins sending gas to Morocco after Algeria spat
In this photo provided by the Moroccan Royal Palace, Moroccan King Mohammed VI, center, chats with King Don Felipe VI of Spain as Queen Dona Letizia of Spain looks on at the king palace in Rabat, Morocco Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. AP
“The first shipment via the Maghreb gas pipeline took place (on Tuesday) involving LNG (liquefied natural gas) which Morocco bought on the international markets and unloaded at a Spanish regasification plant,” a source at Spain’s ecological transition ministry told AFP.
In February, Spain said it would help Morocco address a gas supply shortage by letting it ship LNG to a Spanish regasification plant which could then be transferred to Morocco via the GME pipeline.
The GME pipeline, which crosses Morocco, had previously been used by Algeria to transport gas to Spain.
But in October, following a diplomatic spat, Algiers refused to renew a 25-year deal with Rabat to use the pipeline.
Morocco had been receiving around a billion cubic metres of gas per year as transit fees, covering around 97 percent of its needs, so Algeria’s move directly impacted on Rabat’s energy supplies.
Algiers, which in the first quarter supplied about 25 percent of Spain’s gas imports, had in April warned Madrid not to re-export any of its supplies to Morocco, warning it could endanger its own contract with Algeria.
“A certification scheme guarantees that this gas is not of Algerian origin,” the Spanish ministry source said.
Spain’s Enagas, which operates four LNG terminals and the national gas grid, “will check the origin of the methane tanker carrying the gas” acquired by Morocco “and after unloading will issue a certificate”, ensuring that no other gas is exported, the source said.
Tensions peaked between the North African neighbours last year following Morocco’s renewal of diplomatic ties with Israel and Washington’s recognition of Rabat’s sovereignty over disputed Western Sahara.
Diplomatic ties have also nose-dived between Spain and Algeria after Madrid reversed its decades-long stance of neutrality on Western Sahara, agreeing to back Morocco’s autonomy plan for the disputed region to end a year-long diplomatic spat.
Spain’s move, widely seen as a victory for Morocco, infuriated Algeria, which backs the Polisario Front, Western Sahara’s independence movement.