The hydrogen revolution, which intends to become a cornerstone to the energy transition and replace natural gas in economic sectors with challenging electrification, is supported by a pharaonic project called H2Med, which will link the three nations in two portions and is anticipated to be operational in 2030.
There was tension between Moncloa and the Elysee over what type (or types) of hydrogen would be transported by the future hydro pipeline even before the three countries’ leaders, Pedro Sánchez, Emmanuel Macron, and António Costa, presented the massive pipeline project in style at a summit in Alicante at the beginning of the month.
Macron himself slipped in his institutional statement, “The will is that it transports low-carbon hydrogen, clean hydrogen that can be achieved either with renewables or with nuclear.” France mentioned the potential for using the infrastructure to transport rose hydrogen, which is hydrogen produced using electricity from its nuclear reactors.
The remark made by the French president alarmed the Spanish government, which moved quickly to clarify its demand that the corridor only is used for the transportation of green hydrogen created using electricity from renewable sources. Spain has promised that H2Med will only be used to transport renewable hydrogen following the conflict.
The three nations submitted H2Med’s application to the European Commission last week in order for it to be accepted as a project of common interest (PCI, for short), and to receive funding for up to half of the 2,850 million euros required to build the two sections of hydropipelines that will connect with France and Portugal (between Celorico da Beira and Zamora) (between Barcelona and Marseille, with an underwater tube).
Several official sources familiar with the content of the proposal to El Periódico de Espaa, from the Prensa Ibérica group, confirm that the technical project sent to Brusselscontemplates that the H2Med will only be used to transport green hydrogen and that it will only serve to export renewable gas from the Iberian Peninsula to the rest of Europe, with no reverse direction in the flow being foreseen. They claim that “H2Med has been presented to the Commission as a proposal for exclusively green hydrogen.”
The facilities are not designed to include a compressor in Marseille that would allow for the possibility of reversing the flow, according to government sources. The documentation sent to the European Commission to obtain European funding clearly establishes that it is not planned to use the hydro pipeline in any case for Spain to import hydrogen from France. Hydrogen could be produced with electricity from French nuclear.
Electricity is needed to produce hydrogen for use as a fuel. It causes the electrolysis of water, which separates oxygen from hydrogen (H2) (O). Hydrogen that has been produced using renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar, is referred to as “green hydrogen.” Since France is a nuclear power, the hydrogen it produces will utilize this form of energy for electrolysis. This sort of hydrogen is known as “pink hydrogen.”
The Ministry for the Ecological Transition, which has not disclosed the anticipated investment amount, has announced the construction of two large green hydrogen transport corridors that will connect Gijón, Barcelona, and Cartagena with Huelva, Puertollano (Ciudad Real), Zamora, and Gijón. These corridors will also connect Gijón, Barcelona, and Gijón with Cartagena. The Executive is also looking for EU money to construct two salt-cavity underground hydrogen storage facilities in Cantabria and the Basque Country.
While each of the proposed warehouses has its own independent candidacy and potential boosters, the two major transit routes are seen as a single PCI contender. Internal corridors fall within the legal definition of ICPs, which often refers to projects with a transnational focus, as they are seen as strengthening and facilitating global linkages.
The so-called Spanish hydrogen backbone, which Enagás, the gas system manager and operator of the gas transmission network, has been constructing for a while, serves as the design foundation for these infrastructures. Its growth and development are planned as green hydrogen production and demand increase because it doesn’t emit CO2 when produced using just renewable energy electricity.
Spain aims to focus its future commitment on environmentally friendly hydrogen and forego building any new global natural gas linkages. It was originally intended to establish an underwater gas pipeline with Italy as a replacement or addition to the project of a new gas pipeline with France over the Pyrenees (reclaiming the former MidCat). The opposite of both.
In the end, Spain and France abandoned the updated MidCat in favor of a new corridor that will connect Barcelona and Marseille underwater with a tube that will only carry green hydrogen starting in 2030. This new corridor will be complemented by another connection that will also only transport hydrogen between Portugal and Spain.
The Spanish government is also getting ready to put an end to the “megaplan” of building an underwater gas pipeline with Italy between Barcelona and Livorno that would initially carry natural gas before being converted to carry hydrogen. Previous studies had already been developed for this project, and they had estimated that 3,000 million euros would be needed for construction.
As confirmed by official sources of the Ministry for the Ecological Transition, led by Vice President Teresa Ribera, the Executive reorients its strategy for gas foreign trade and will forgo building any additional international connections that serve to transport natural gas in order to fully commit to the coming revolution of renewable hydrogen.
Spain has gas pipelines connecting its gas system to France, Portugal, Algeria, and Morocco. The government’s plans are not to build a single natural gas pipeline installation, but rather to concentrate on building green hydrogen facilities in the future, which will help decarbonize industries that are challenging to electrify, like heavy industry and transportation.