Italy has initiated discussions with German authorities regarding a potential supply agreement for natural gas and hydrogen to Bavaria, one of Germany’s key states. This collaboration signifies a significant stride in the Meloni government’s vision to transform Italy into a “gas hub,” positioning the country as a pivotal point for receiving and redistributing fuel between the Mediterranean and Northern Europe.
At the heart of Italy’s gas hub project lies cooperation among state-owned energy companies and the expansion of gas management and transportation infrastructure. Eni, Italy’s leading natural gas importer, has adapted to dwindling supplies from Russia, the former primary supplier to Italy and the European Union before the Ukraine crisis. Eni has compensated for this decline by increasing imports from North African countries, anticipating that Algeria, Libya, and Egypt will become major gas providers to Italy in the years ahead. Eni’s strategic plan involves not only importing significant volumes of natural gas from African nations but also reselling surplus gas to other European nations.
Snam, responsible for managing Italy’s national gas pipeline network, aims to complete the Adriatica Line pipeline along its eponymous coast by 2027. This expansion is intended to facilitate increased imports from North Africa. This ambitious project, requiring an investment of 2.5 billion euros, is projected to boost gas transport capacity from Southern Italy to approximately 10 billion cubic meters within four years. This surplus gas is not limited to domestic consumption; Environment Minister Gilberto Pichetto Fratin has indicated that it will be supplied to “Austria, Bavaria, and Hungary.”
Beyond gas, the Adriatica Line gas pipeline will play a crucial role in the SouthH2 corridor’s vision for transporting hydrogen from Africa to Northern Europe, set to commence in 2030. The Bavarian government, as confirmed by a spokesperson in an interview with Reuters, is aware of Snam’s and other operators’ plans to repurpose existing pipelines for hydrogen transportation.
Germany, especially in the south, faces substantial energy demand. However, it is in the north where the wind power potential and new LNG regasification facilities are concentrated. To ensure uninterrupted energy supply, the southern federal states of Germany seek a robust contingency plan, as Markus Kerber, responsible for strategic planning within the center-right CDU party, points out.
In 2022, Italy consumed 67 billion cubic meters of natural gas and exported 4.2 billion cubic meters to Northern Europe, with Austria being the primary recipient. This figure was slightly lower than the 76 billion cubic meters consumed in 2021, before the Ukraine conflict and the subsequent energy price volatility.
The gas hub project also encompasses a foreign policy dimension known as the “Mattei Plan,” named after Eni’s founder, Enrico Mattei. Although details are limited, it broadly involves strengthening relations with North African countries, particularly Algeria and Tunisia, not only in energy but also in managing migration.