In Spain, the sharp rise in the price of electricity cannot be stopped.

This is also due to the price of natural gas, which could soon become scarcer on the Iberian Peninsula.

Because Algeria will reduce its deliveries in October.

This hits Spain particularly hard, because it currently gets around 45 percent of its natural gas from the North African country.

Algeria is actually a reliable supplier.

But now the effects of the serious diplomatic crisis between Algeria and its regional rival Morocco are making themselves felt in south-west Europe.

Hans-Christian Rößler

Political correspondent for the Iberian Peninsula and the Maghreb, based in Madrid.

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At the end of August, the government in Algiers broke off relations with the neighboring country, which had been tense for many years. A few days ago it even closed Algerian airspace to Moroccan planes. Algiers accuses Morocco of supporting separatists in Algeria, spying on the government and being the "Israeli bridgehead" in the Maghreb; Then there is the escalated conflict in Western Sahara, in which Algeria supports the Polisario Liberation Front, which is again fighting against Morocco.

From the end of October, Algerian natural gas will no longer flow through the 1,400-kilometer Maghreb-Europe pipeline.

It leads from Algeria through Morocco under the Strait of Gibraltar to Tarifa in Spain and from there in part to Portugal.

Algeria no longer wants Morocco to benefit from its gas and is no longer extending the lucrative contract for the pipeline: Up until now, Morocco was allowed to keep 7 percent of the transported raw material, which covered almost half of its requirements.

Gas with tankers to Spain?

In future, Algerian supplies for Spain will only flow through the 750-kilometer Medgaz pipeline from Beni Saf under the Mediterranean to the Spanish port city of Almería.

The owners are the Algerian state-owned company Sonatrach and the Spanish electricity supplier Naturgy together with an investment fund.

The capacity of this pipeline has just expanded from 8,000 to 10,000 million cubic meters per year.

However, that only makes up for part of the 8,700 million cubic meters that had so far reached Spain every year through the second line via Morocco.

Alternatively, it is possible to liquefy part of it and bring it to Spain by tanker.

But that is time-consuming and expensive.

So far this has only happened to 4 percent of Spanish imports.

“There will be no supply problems in Spain because we have sufficient facilities to liquefy natural gas.

But in view of the tense situation on the gas market, this can increase the pressure on prices, ”said Spanish energy expert Gonzalo Escribano of the FAZ. The director of the program for energy and climate issues at Madrid's Elcano Institute does not expect more dramatic fluctuations.

But the latest developments "could occasionally push gas prices up against the background of markets that have already reached record prices," the expert at the Madrid think tank expects.

But that will also depend on how the politicians react.

No panic

There is no sense of panic in Madrid. At the end of September, Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albaren traveled to Algiers with the heads of Naturgy and the state-controlled operator of the Enagas gas pipeline. There, the Algerian leadership promised to do everything possible to keep their delivery promises. The latest figures show how close the relationship has become: by July, Spain had already imported more natural gas from Algeria than in all of 2020. Algeria is Spain's most important natural gas supplier. This is followed by Nigeria, Russia, the USA and Qatar.

The sources of supply vary.

This is a legal requirement in Spain.

In order to avoid excessive dependency, more than 50 percent may not be imported from any country.

Just a few years ago, the USA and Qatar overtook Algeria.

That is why Spain also has logistics that make it more independent of the pipelines.

Liquefaction plants are available in five large ports and there is also the largest fleet of tankers in the EU.

However, the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies warns that Algeria will not be able to significantly increase its gas liquefaction in the short term.

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