Foreign Policy: Spain’s Energy Ambitions Are Looking Like a Pipe Dream

Madrid wanted to become a European hub for natural gas. Then it reneged on Western Sahara. Check out my analysis for Foreign Policy Magazine on Spain's gas ambitions in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine
Albert Guasch

Albert Guasch

I am a freelance journalist writing on world affairs, politics and history; and a communications professional working for Club de Madrid, the largest forum of former Heads of State and Government promoting democratic values. I have written for La Vanguardia, Euronews and Are We Europe, among others. I am also a Stiftung Mercator Alumni and a Young Professional Advisor at United Europe.

In its new bid to cut its dependence on Russian gas, Europe is looking in all possible directions. More shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG) are coming from the west—across the Atlantic—as agreed to on March 25 by U.S. President Joe Biden and the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. They may also come from the east, after Germany signed a March 20 agreement with Qatar.

The continent, however, is not yet ready to cut off Russia. Not only are the European Union’s links to Russian gas too strong—gas exports from Russia account for around 40 percent of the EU’s supply—but many countries also lack LNG regasification terminals, the infrastructure necessary to store and convert LNG back into its gaseous state. Other than Russia, there are few nearby countries able to fill the EU’s energy gap. Except maybe to the south.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Spain is pushing to become a hub that carries natural gas to the rest of Europe. Spain has six LNG regasification terminals that provide 35 percent of the EU’s storage capacity, by far the biggest of any other member state. These terminals also currently operate well below full capacity. Most critical is Spain’s proximity to Algeria, a country with substantial natural gas reserves. Altogether, Madrid has a far more secure supply than other European countries and zero to no dependence on Russian gas.

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