Barcelona-Marseille pipeline: an ambitious but dangerous project

The planned underwater hydrogen pipeline between Barcelona and Marseille is a risky project, but a key one for the European Union’s energy independence.

Here’s what we know about the joint initiative by Madrid, Lisbon and Paris. The initiative will be discussed alongside a summit of Southern European Union countries in Spain on Friday.

– what is that? –

Called “H2Med” or “BarMar” (from Barcelona and Marseille), the pipeline will transport green hydrogen between Spain, France and other European countries.

Green hydrogen is made from water through electrolysis and renewable energy.

Announced at the EU Summit in October, the pipeline will replace the defunct MidCat pipeline project in 2003.

It was intended to carry gas across the Pyrenees from Spain to France, but was eventually abandoned due to profitability problems and opposition from Paris and environmentalists.

– What is your goal? –

The pipeline aims to help decarbonize European industry and make the clean energy that Spain and Portugal want to produce available on a large scale.

The two neighbors aim to become world leaders in green hydrogen thanks to their large number of wind and solar power plants.

France, Portugal and Spain initially said in October that the pipeline was intended to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian energy by improving gas interconnections between the Iberian Peninsula and its neighbors. rice field.

Spain and Portugal account for 40% of Europe’s capacity to convert liquefied natural gas (LNG) arriving by tanker back into gas form, but have few links with the rest of Europe.

However, Madrid and Paris stressed that the pipeline would need to be dedicated to hydrogen, as the three countries want EU funding to cover their projects primarily.

– Why Barcelona and Marseille? –

According to the project’s backers, this is “the most direct and efficient way to connect the peninsula with Central Europe”.

Barcelona is Spain’s energy hub and “has one of the largest regasification plants in Europe,” according to Professor José Ignacio Linares of Madrid’s Pontificia Comillas University.

Marseille is also a hub of the French network and a gateway to the Rhône Valley, northern Italy and Germany. These regions have the potential to become large consumers of green hydrogen.

――What kind of route? –

The route hasn’t been decided yet, but Linares told AFP that the “most logical” option would be to run closer to the coast to avoid deep water.

In that case, H2Med would be extended by about 450 kilometers (280 miles).

– When will it be completed? –

French Energy Minister Agnes Panier-Lunachet told Spanish daily El Pais that the pipeline could come online in 2030, while her Spanish counterpart, Teresa Rivera, said: “5, 6, or 7 years,” he said.

– How much will it cost? –

The cost of the project was not disclosed. However, the European Hydrogen Backbone (EHB), which groups European energy pipeline operators, has put a €2 billion ($2.1 billion) price tag on the line.

– What is your disability? –

Gonzalo Escrivano, energy expert at the Real Instituto Elcano think tank in Madrid, said:

This innovative project faces certain technical challenges.

One of the main problems is that hydrogen is made up of small molecules, which can leak out of joints and cause corrosion, said Linares, an engineer by training.

But such problems can be overcome by “placing a membrane inside[the pipeline]which is a kind of plastic that prevents hydrogen from escaping,” he said.

――What is the outlook? –

Experts say the biggest risk is its economic viability.

“It is not clear when the green hydrogen market will start and whether Spain is in a position to produce enough to export it,” Escribano said.

But Linares said its construction would take so long “that we can’t afford to wait.”

“That would create too much hydrogen for export.” Barcelona-Marseille pipeline: an ambitious but dangerous project

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