Seven years. The Spanish government believes that we will have to wait until 2030 for the gas pipeline between Barcelona and Marseille to come into operation. With this calendar in hand, the work —more than 300 kilometers long and about which Paris, Madrid and Lisbon will reveal all the details at the Euro-Mediterranean summit next Friday— seems to be a fundamental route for the export of hydrogen green, but it will not be able to solve the most immediate problem: the energy crisis that is ravaging Europe. Until the BarMar —or H2Med, as it has been renamed in recent weeks— enters service, it will continue to be very difficult for Spain’s enormous regasification capacity to help alleviate the huge appetite in the north of the continent.
“The 2030 date is based on experience with other projects of community interest (PCI) in the past,” explain sources from the Ministry for the Spanish Transition and the Demographic Challenge. “The reality is that the European processing processes can take between one and two years, plus another year until all the countries [de la Unión] They give their approval and another four or five of construction ”, they detail. The time frame is noticeably longer than it would have been had MidCat, the original gas pipeline project under the Pyrenees, been ousted by staunch French opposition.
The latest precedent for a large underwater gas pipeline is Nord Stream 2, an infrastructure sentenced before it even came into operation. And, in view of the deadlines that were handled then, “it is highly unlikely that [el BarMar] may be in a shorter period. Those are our technical estimates”, endorse the sources consulted. The time horizon, however, is “indicative” and could be modified upwards or downwards depending on how much the community authorities speed up or other factors, “such as the availability of materials.”
The plan of the countries involved and of the European authorities is that, until green hydrogen is a tangible reality throughout the continent, the pipeline between Barcelona and Marseille is used to transport fossil gas. In a longer term, however, the project involves green hydrogen flowing. “It will transport 10% of the 20-ton target that the EU expects to consume in 2030. We believe it is a feasible target,” they say from the department headed by Teresa Ribera.
Green hydrogen, competitive in less than a decade
Most of the projections on green hydrogen in Spain contemplate that, in a first phase —by 2030, the same year in which the inauguration of BarMar is expected—, domestic production will be dedicated almost entirely to covering half a million tons of national consumption, especially intensive in industry and refineries. From then on, the Iberian Peninsula has a golden opportunity to export this energy vector to the rest of the EU.
The upward revision of the European objectives has led Spain to also raise its own goals. “We want to become a large supplier of cheap hydrogen to the rest of the EU, which already plans to have to import from outside the bloc. Our objective is to be able to provide an important part of the hydrogen that Europe needs, so that not everything has to come from outside”, they add from the ministry. “We must avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, with dependencies like the ones we have seen in recent years.”
The year 2030 is also the date marked in red by the Executive for hydrogen to be fully competitive in price with grey, that produced with fossil fuels. “Natural gas has risen so much that, little by little, it has made green hydrogen competitive,” they explain. Thereafter it will be even cheaper than the dirty alternative. This fuel —or its derivatives, such as methanol or ammonia— constitutes the most logical alternative to decarbonise sectors in which electrification is not the most efficient solution in the short term. Among them, the transport of goods by sea or by land.
With vast renewable energy resources —above all, photovoltaic solar energy—, Spain starts with several bodies of advantage in the global hydrogen race. Being a mostly dry country, however, there is a but: water. “The water needs are evident, but each kilo produced with gray hydrogen requires much more water than green”, they argue from the Ministry. Desalination, a process that is also very energy intensive, is a feasible alternative: “It is true that it adds a cost, but this is ridiculous compared to that of the electrolyser [el aparato] which enables”. By mid-century, the Government calculates that water needs will be more than 100 times higher for agriculture and livestock than for the production of green hydrogen.
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