According to the agreement struck by Presidents Pedro Sánchez, Emmanuel Macron, and António Costa in December 2022 to establish hydrogen connectivity between the Iberian Peninsula and France, Barcelona will serve as the beginning point of Europe’s first green corridor.
Although there are still questions about the method and design of the pipeline, the goal is for the pipeline to carry two million tons of hydrogen annually to the rest of the continent with the intention of supplying 10% of all hydrogen used in Europe by 2030.
A tube with a diameter of 28 inches, 355 kilometers in length, and a name of BarMar will be used to transmit solely hydrogen at a pressure of 210 bar. The Government has pitched it as a Project of Common Interest with an estimated cost of EUR 2,500,000,000, of which EUR 500,000 would come from the EU (PCI, for its acronym in English). Three different layout ideas were on the table. The B and C, which is the one that was ultimately picked, have similar depths (about 2,550 meters), but the winner is shorter and has a gentler slope uphill. The A was the most direct, measuring 369 kilometers long and having a maximum depth of 985 meters.
Another cross-border infrastructure between Spain (Zamora) and Portugal (Celorico da Beira) as well as the beginnings of an internal network to connect the primary hydrogen production centers with domestic demand and with the rest of Europe by connecting the connection from Cartagena to Barcelona are also a part of the larger H2Med project, which also includes the Barcelona-Marseille hydrocarbon pipeline. Gijón is connected to Huelva via two routes: one via the Bay of Biscay and the other via Barcelona, Gijón.
The political agreement and the project’s preliminary design, as requested by Europe for funding, were completed at the end of last year. Von Der Leyen has always maintained that Europe will not support new gas tunnels. That marks the beginning of a long process that will see the building of the facility begin in late 2025 or early 2026 and last for around 56 months, as the government intends for it to begin operations in 2030. The parties agree that it will not be executed if it does not receive funds from the EU. Additionally, the project currently lacks the technical and environmental impact studies and many consultations that can cause a delay or slowdown. Ana Maria Jaller-Makarewicz, an IEEFA energy sector expert, says that because there is no prior knowledge, “we don’t know what discrepancies may develop along the route.”
As an illustration, consider what transpired with the MidCat project, which in 2014 was projected to replace 10% of Europe’s consumption of Russian gas. There was never a consensus among the nations, as there is now, but the project was abandoned in 2019 following an evaluation provided by the transporters of both nations, Enagás and Teréga, due to a lack of demand. This decision was made by the Spanish and French regulators, the National Commission of Markets and Competition (CNMC), and the Commission for the Regulation of Energy (CRE).
Given that this technology is still in development, one of the major questions that hang over this project is if there is enough demand for this hydrogen. Ana Maria Jaller-Makarewicz continues, “It has been suggested that the pipeline will feed Germany, but France’s ambition to extend Marseille’s infrastructure in northern Europe is missing. Joan Batalla, the president of the gas employers Sedigas, emphasizes that this time the focus might go much further and on supply security. The Ukrainian conflict and the demand for gas that was once transported through pipelines, along with the current energy crisis, “have fundamentally impacted the importance of energy security,” the author claims.
Given that France favors nuclear energy production and Spain prefers renewable energy, it is also unknown what kind of hydrogen will be used for this highway and whether it will flow up from the Iberian Peninsula or in both directions. Even though everything is obvious, it makes sense that Spain, a producer of green hydrogen, would not purchase pink hydrogen from France. We can all agree that green hydrogen is the way to go in Europe. However, some nations chose pink hydrogen because they have a lot of nuclear power, while others chose blue hydrogen because they have large natural gas reserves and history of CO2 sequestration. These nations may eventually be unable to market their green hydrogen, according to Javier Brey, president of the Spanish Hydrogen Association (AeH2). How that green hydrogen is produced, for which there is no European legislation, is another riddle to crack.