|This article is part of the Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker, a project of Global Energy Monitor.|
South Transit East Pyrenees
- Owners: Enagás, Teréga
- Operators: Enagás, Teréga
- Parents: Enagás, EDF, GIC, Snam, CAA
- Proposed capacity: 7.5 billion cubic meters a year
- Proposed length: 1,250 km
- STEP: 227 km
- Cost: €3 billion (US$3.7 billion)
- Financing: €4.15 million grant from the EU's Connecting Europe Facility
- Status: Proposed
- Start year: 2022
The MidCat Pipeline was initially pitched as part of the broader EU effort to reduce the bloc's dependence on Russian energy imports by shipping more gas from the Iberian peninsula to the rest of Europe. The project was cut into two sections. The first part is called the South Transit East Pyrenees, or STEP, and is meant to continue the existing abandoned line into France for 120 km, at a cost of about €440 million. France would cover two-thirds of that. The goal was for construction to be completed by 2022. The more expensive second half of MidCat would follow, including reinforcing about 800 km of the gas network in France. The full project aims to add about 7.5 billion cubic meters of cross-border capacity, approximately doubling the amount of gas that can flow between the two countries.
In 2015, the project was awarded a €4.15 million grant from the EU's Connecting Europe Facility for pre-construction studies as well as the public consultation for the implementation of the first phase of the project on the French side.
The pipeline was cancelled in January of 2019 after being blocked by French regulators following a determination that the pipeline was not financially viable. The €3 billion project – which was prioritized for EU support by EU Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete in the EU's list of 'Projects of Common Interest' (PCI list), alongside 100 other gas projects – was last April found to be not financially viable under most scenarios, in an official cost-benefit study. Its cancellation throws into doubt the validity and legitimacy of the criteria used by the European Commission to prioritize similar gas projects on the PCI list.
In February 2022, amidst a European energy crisis and mounting tensions between Russia and the West, anonymous Spanish government sources were reported in the La Vanguardia newspaper as saying that NATO had designs on reviving the Midcat project, with alleged backing from Germany. This would potentially allow the transportation of mainly US LNG imports into existing Spanish and Portuguese LNG terminals and then onwards into the rest of Europe, thus boosting diversification away from Russian gas sources. No timeline for the plans was reported.
In March 2022, the Spanish government began publicly promoting the revival of the MidCat pipeline, calling for EU public funding for the interconnector between Spain and France to be able to deliver gas from Spanish LNG import terminals into the heart of Europe. Spain's Minister for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, Teresa Ribera, was critical of the reluctance being shown by French authorities to get behind the new MidCat concept. In April 2022, the head of the regional government of Catalonia, Pere Aragonès, expressed support for MidCat's revival, saying that he was confident it could be built this decade to ship gas and potentially green hydrogen from Catalonia to France.
In 2018, Friends of the Earth Europe and Fossil Free Europe released a report "MythCat: Debunking the Glory of the Midcat Pipeline Between France and Spain" saying, among other things, the the pipeline is at odds with the Paris Agreement. The report states that "oppositions to the construction of MidCat/STEP have sprung on both sides of the Pyrenees since 2011. Dozens of groups of concerned citizens, NGOs and members of the European Parliament are fighting against the project, contributing to public consultations, launching legal actions and putting pressure on decision makers at local, regional, national and European levels. Moreover, for some of these reasons, institutions like the French energy regulator are also opposing the project."
350.org posted an article celebrating the cancellation of MidCat in 2019 calling it "a HUGE win for the local communities in Catalonia and France, who have been campaigning and protesting for years."
A December 2020 report by Corporate Europe Observatory and other European environment groups warned that the European gas industry's rush to develop and seek public funding for new hydrogen infrastructure is being used as an excuse to revive previously cancelled gas infrastructure projects such as the MidCat pipeline.
In May 2022, in response to the European gas crisis and the EU's desire to wean off Russian oil and gas, the project was revived by the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers' Party), the PP (People's Party of Spain), and Ciudadanos to carry gas and green hydrogen. The organizations sought to simplify the process of converting this into a Project of Common Interest, as part of a plan to make Spain a future hydrogen hub.
Articles and resources
- Simon, Antoine; Marchand, Cecile (May 2018). "Mythcat: Debunking the Glory" (PDF). FOE Europe. Retrieved September 21, 2021.
- The Franco-Spanish ghost gas pipeline, Politico, accessed January 2019
- Union, Publications Office of the European (2018-04-27). "Cost-benefit analysis of STEP, as first phase of MIDCAT : final report". op.europa.eu. Retrieved 2021-09-21.
- Climate incompatible France-Spain gas pipeline cancelled, Friends of the Earth Europe, accessed January 2019
- Press, Europa (2022-05-11). "PSOE, PP y Cs pactan impulsar el gasoducto Midcat con Francia y usarlo para hidrógeno verde". elperiodicodeespana (in español). Retrieved 2022-05-12.
- Heller, Fernando (2022-05-09). "Spain becoming one of Europe's new hydrogen hubs, says von der Leyen". www.euractiv.com. Retrieved 2022-05-12.
- European Commission (January 2019). "EasternGasAxisSpain— France("Midcat")" (PDF). Europa. Retrieved September 21, 2021.
- European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas (April 2017). "TYNDP 2017 MAP" (PDF). Retrieved September 21, 2021.
- European Commission (July 2019). "South Transit East Pyrenees [currently known as "STEP"]" (PDF). Europa. Retrieved September 21, 2021.
- "Proyecto STEP | Enagás". www.enagas.es. Retrieved 2021-09-21.
- Exclusive: Viability of French-Spain gas pipeline questioned - report, Reuters, Apr. 17, 2018
- Conceptual and FEED studies (French part of the Midcat project), European Commission, accessed Dec. 14, 2020
- Clayton, Austin (2019-02-05). "Future of the MidCat project in limbo". South EU Summit. Retrieved 2021-09-21.
- Steve Sweeney, Nato planning pipeline to supply Europe as hostilities toward Russia continue, Morning Star, Feb. 7, 2022
- Icíar Gutiérrez, Teresa Ribera reproaches France for lack of engagement in gas interconnection, EURACTIV, Mar. 16, 2022
- Catalan leader confident gas pipeline with France will be built this decade, EURACTIV, Apr. 22, 2022
- Hazan, Louise (January 24, 2019). "MidCAT Pipeline Stopped". 350.org. Retrieved 2021-09-21.
- The hydrogen hype: Gas industry fairy tale or climate horror story?, Corporate Europe Observatory, Dec. 7, 2020
- Ledo, Sara (2022-03-08). "MidCat, el gasoducto nonato entre España y Francia que se quiere resucitar para reducir la dependencia de Rusia". elperiodicodeespana (in español). Retrieved 2022-05-12.