The number of ships loading liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Spain and taking it across Europe doubled in 2022 compared with the previous year, helping ease the energy crisis driven by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, gas grid operator Enagas said on Thursday.
"Our plants are contributing very significantly to the energy security of other countries and from the Barcelona plant, especially for Italy," Enagas chief executive Arturo Gonzalo Aizpiri told reporters, adding that a total of 250 ships loaded LNG at Enagas plants in Spain last year.
Traffic is expected to rise further after Enagas unveiled on Thursday a new platform at its Barcelona port regasification plant for small- and medium-sized boats to load LNG.
Seeking to "maximise solidarity with Italy", Spain's energy minister announced in September it would adapt a jetty at the plant to increase loading capacity for vessels carrying gas to Italy, which has sought to reduce its reliance on Russian gas.
The Energy Ministry at the time described those shipments as a "virtual gas pipeline" between Barcelona and Livorno, but it has not disclosed any traffic details.
Spain has six LNG terminals it says could help supply central Europe, while another is expected to be operative in coming weeks. The one in Barcelona is the largest in Europe, according to Enagas.
Gonzalo also said European Union funds could finance 30%-50% of the underwater hydrogen pipeline to be laid between Spain and France.
The two countries have agreed to explore the possibility of building a pipeline to ship green hydrogen between Barcelona and Marseille at a cost of about 2.1 billion euros, Gonzalo said, while a connection between Spain and Portugal would cost around 350 million euros.
The funding would come from that set aside by the EU for key cross-border energy infrastructure designated as "Projects of Common Interest".
The remaining 50%-70% of the cost would be covered by the countries which would benefit from the project, the pipeline's future customers and fees charged to ship the gas, Gonzalo said.
"It will have no cost for Spanish consumers," he added.
The executive said the countries involved, including Germany - which expressed interest last month - were "advancing in the technical definition" of the project, which is being evaluated to see if it meets the EU's funding requirements.
Enagas also unveiled the first so-called bunkering ship made in Spain that will supply LNG to other vessels and will be based at the Barcelona plant. It is jointly owned by Norwegian shipping company Knutsen OAS and will be operated by Shell.
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(Reuters - Reporting by Joan Faus, Inti Landauro and David Latona; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)