Algeria – Due to tensions with Rabat, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune ordered state-owned energy company Sonatrach to cease gas exports to Spain via a pipeline that passes through Morocco. Algeria, Africa’s largest natural gas exporter, has been delivering several billion cubic meters (bcm) a year to Spain and Portugal through the Gaz-Maghreb-Europe (GME) pipeline since 1996. The GME contract, on the other hand, is set to expire at midnight on Sunday, a little over two months after Algiers broke diplomatic ties with Rabat over “hostile activities,” which Morocco denies.
According to a statement from the presidency, Tebboune “ordered the suspension of trade relations between Sonatrach and the Moroccan National Office for Electricity and Potable Water (ONEE), as well as the non-renewal of the contract, which expires at midnight Sunday.” ONEE said in a statement released late Sunday that the relocation would have no substantial impact. “The essential precautions have been made to maintain the country’s electrical supply continuity in advance of this decision,” it stated. After consulting with the prime minister and the ministers of energy and foreign affairs, Tebboune made the decision “in light of the (Moroccan) kingdom’s hostile behavior that damages national unity,” according to the statement.
Algerian and Spanish officials said on Wednesday that Algiers will only export natural gas to Spain via an undersea pipeline from now on, avoiding Morocco. However, experts claim that the alternative undersea connection, known as Medigap, has a lower capacity than the GME, despite growing concerns in Spain about gas shortages and rising energy prices throughout Europe. During a meeting in Algiers earlier this week, Spain’s Ecological Transition Minister Teresa Ribera tried to sound reassuring, saying that “arrangements have been made to continue to ensure, in the best possible way, deliveries of gas through Medgaz on a well-defined schedule.”
Medgaz now has an annual capacity of eight billion cubic meters, with plans to grow this to 10.5 billion cubic meters in the future. Algeria has also suggested that LNG deliveries by sea be increased. The transportation alternative did not make economical sense, according to Maghreb geopolitics specialist Geoff Porter. Morocco’s normalization of relations with Israel in exchange for Washington’s recognition of Rabat’s sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara has caused months of tensions between the two countries. Algeria has accused Rabat of unfriendly acts.