Madrid has confirmed to the North African country that it has nothing to worry about while the Alawi kingdom seeks alternatives to import liquefied natural gas

Argelia muestra preocupación sobre el posible envío de su gas a Marruecos desde España

PHOTO/REUTERS - The gas pipeline linking Spain, Morocco and Algeria

The new relations between Morocco and Spain are provoking a rather hostile reaction from Algeria. The two North African nations have severed ties in recent months, with Algeria deciding to cut off gas supplies through the Maghreb-Europe Gas Pipeline (GME). But with the restoration of diplomacy between the Alawi kingdom and Spain, Algeria has taken matters into its own hands and has threatened Madrid with another supply cut-off if it takes advantage of the situation and reverses its gas supply to Morocco.

"The prospects of breaking Algeria's energy commitments to Spain, a key European partner, remain low," said Intissar Fakir, director of the North Africa and Sahel programme at the Middle East Institute think tank.

REUTERS/LAMINE CHIKHI - Yacimiento de gas en Argelia

Algeria has expressed concern over this issue. Algeria fears that during the process of reversing GME flows, Algerian gas could end up in a place that the Algerian government does not want. For its part, Spain has reaffirmed that, despite its good relations with the Alawi country, it will not receive anything of Algerian origin. In addition, Madrid recalled that an agreement has been signed with the Kingdom for it to use its regasification facilities to process liquefied natural gas (LNG) purchases.

"Sonatrach, the country's national energy company, is not willing to break international contracts and compromise its relationship with a key customer for several reasons. While Algeria has stipulated that its current agreement excludes the transfer of Algerian gas to Morocco - and Madrid has assured Algiers that no such transfer will take place - it will be difficult, if not impossible, for Algeria to verify the exact origin of the supply," the director says. 

REUTERS/RAMZI BOUDINA - El logo de la compañía estatal de energía Sonatrach está en la sede de Argel, Argelia

Morocco, more than two weeks after this inconvenience, is looking for alternatives to process the LNG. The Maghreb nation does not want to settle for a single LNG supplier, so the Moroccan government has opted to start diversifying its sources of supply. This is largely due to the difficulty of obtaining natural gas after the Russian-Ukrainian war.

"Given the cost of renting a regasification facility, Morocco has turned to Spain to facilitate the processing of LNG that will then be transported through GME. Plans to overhaul the pipeline to reverse the flow have been underway for months and Spain has responded favourably to the Moroccan request provided the Alawi government can secure its own supplies on the international spot market," said North Africa and Sahel programme manager Mostafa Terrab. He is also the head of the OCP group.

Initially, Morocco was to charter the LNG that would arrive across the Atlantic from the United States or Nigeria. It would be unloaded in the Spanish city of Huelva and transported to Cordoba, where the factory in charge of the pumping process is located. It would then be transported through the GME. 

La ministra marroquí de Transición Energética y Desarrollo Sostenible, Leila Benali AFP/DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS

But despite this, the new energy deal is stalled. It was previously agreed to supply the Tahaddart and Ain Beni Mathar plants with LNG, but they have not yet been able to benefit from the resource. Laila Benali, Morocco's Minister of Energy Transition, expressed her satisfaction that this will allow the country to enter the international LNG market.

With these first deliveries, which were initially scheduled to take place in a matter of days, Morocco has received a number of contracts to export this resource. "We have received dozens of responses. These are medium-term contracts," confirmed the minister. Morocco is therefore also looking for other solutions that would allow it to open up fully to this market.

According to Terrab, Morocco was interested in renting a regasification facility to process LNG in Qatar. He claims that Moroccan government delegations visited the plant in mid-February where they were able to ascertain the volumes of LNG it produces.