Just under 10% of the natural gas that Spain imports from abroad comes from Russia, a supply that could be compromised if that country decides to intervene militarily in neighboring Ukraine. However, in recent days both the third vice-president of the Government, Teresa Ribera, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, have assured that Spain will not suffer natural gas supply problems due to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, although it could be affected by an increase in the price of this raw material.
According to data from the Corporación de Reservas Estratégicas de Productos Petrolíferos (Cores), in November 9.8 % of natural gas imports to Spain came from Russia, far behind Algeria, which with 31.9 % is our main supplier. In the year-to-date, Russia has imported 32,832 gigawatt hours (GWh) of natural gas to Spain, and is the fourth country with the highest volume of imports with 8.7 % of the total, behind Algeria (44.5 %), the USA (13.3 %) and Nigeria (10.9 %), and surpassing Qatar (6.7 %), France (4.6 %), Trinidad and Tobago (3.3 %) and Norway (2.9 %).
Since it began supplying gas to Spain through the Yamal LNG plant in 2018, Russia has been increasing its share of imports received annually by Spain, from 2.5 % at the end of 2018 and 8.5 % in 2019, before the pandemic broke out, to 10.4 % in 2020.
Despite this, Algeria continues to be the country that exports the most natural gas to Spain, both by pipeline and by ship, although its share has been varying in recent years - it was 51.3 % in 2018, 33.1 % in 2019 and 29.1 % in 2020 - coinciding with the increase in imports from the USA.
Moderate dependence on Russia
Unlike Algeria, the gas exported by Russia to Spain arrives via methane tankers at 160 degrees Celsius below zero in a liquid state (liquefied natural gas), which is unloaded at the six regasification plants owned by the Spanish gas system manager Enagás, where it is converted to a gaseous state. As there is no gas pipeline connecting the two countries, in addition to the relatively low percentage of natural gas that Spain receives from Russia, the outbreak of a possible international conflict would not have such a direct effect on Spain as it would on other European countries such as Germany, which is much more dependent on Russian supplies due to its geographical location.
Spain currently has six international connection points for the supply of natural gas: two with Algeria, through Tarifa (Cadiz) and Almeria (with the Maghreb and Medgaz pipelines respectively); two with Portugal, through Badajoz and Tuy (Pontevedra); and another two with France, through Irun (Guipuzcoa) and Larrau.
In the event of not being able to continue importing natural gas from Russia, Spain would have to find other alternatives which would involve increasing imports from other markets, as it did when in early November a diplomatic conflict between Algeria and Morocco led to the closure of the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline (GME) after 25 years of uninterrupted supply.
The closure of this route, which provided Spain with 25% of its natural gas supplies, forced Spain to increase the supply it receives through the other pipeline connecting it with Algeria, the Megdaz pipeline, and to receive the rest of the natural gas through methane tankers in the form of liquefied natural gas.
In this regard, 46.3 % of net imports received by Spain so far this year arrived via pipeline, compared to 53.7 % by ship, a percentage that in 2020 was 35.3 % and 64.7 %, respectively.
What Russia's military intervention in Ukraine could provoke would be a rise in the price of natural gas, which is already at very high levels as a result of the energy crisis that is plaguing a large part of Europe.
In this line was pronounced a few days ago Ribera who, despite assuring that the supply of natural gas in Spain was guaranteed, said that the situation caused by a possible Russian invasion was "disturbing" and could impact on the prices of this raw material.
"It is a very sensitive issue. Spain has a solid position in terms of guaranteeing supply and, in addition, the regasification infrastructure we have allows rapid access to liquefied natural gas by ship and therefore there is no problem of supply with very different sources," Efe explained a few days ago.