Nearly a year ago, the BarMar hydrogen pipeline project was announced with great expectations, aiming to connect Spain and France, potentially revolutionizing the hydrogen landscape.
However, since its unveiling, there has been a noticeable lack of progress and concrete developments. French experts are now questioning whether the project was ever a feasible endeavor.
The history of this project is entangled with its predecessor, the MidCat pipeline, which was a controversial initiative designed to transport gas from Spain to France across the Pyrenees. After more than two decades of contemplation, in September 2022, the French government concluded that the MidCat project was environmentally detrimental and economically unviable.
Furthermore, the European Commission stated that EU funding couldn’t support the project because it was intended for transporting fossil gas without a clear commitment to eventually transport hydrogen. French President Emmanuel Macron put an end to it, affirming that there was “no obvious need for it.”
One month later, the project was resurrected under the name BarMar, becoming part of a more extensive hydrogen backbone initiative called H2Med. Instead of crossing the Pyrenees, BarMar was reimagined to run along the Mediterranean coast, connecting Barcelona and Marseille.
While this renewed effort was announced with much fanfare, there has been minimal tangible progress.
Philippe Boucly, the president of France Hydrogène, expressed doubts about the possibility of obtaining sufficient clean hydrogen quantities by 2030. The French government seems to share this skepticism, indicating that there will be no infrastructure for a decarbonized hydrogen import strategy in Europe by 2030.
The H2Med network, which includes the French and German sections of BarMar, might not be fully deployed until after 2035, according to government documents. In essence, France is adopting a cautious “wait-and-see” policy, monitoring hydrogen market developments before making substantial investments.
BarMar’s viability is increasingly questionable. Competition from other hydrogen pipeline projects and sea exports around France has grown stronger since BarMar’s announcement. While some in the hydrogen industry remain cautiously optimistic, progress is contingent on many variables falling into place. And, as of now, these elements are yet to be confirmed.
Christophe Grudler, a member of the European Parliament’s Industry, Research, and Energy Committee, pointed out that BarMar is not “stillborn” because of President Macron’s commitment to it. However, the project’s future remains uncertain.
As Belgium assumes the EU presidency from Spain in early 2024, supporters hope for progress. Nonetheless, the idea that BarMar may never come to fruition is not entirely dismissible, particularly given its political nature and the need for broader European recognition of low-carbon hydrogen as an essential objective.