ALICANTE, Spain (AP) — Spain, France and Portugal agreed Friday to build by 2030 a major undersea pipeline to transport hydrogen from the Iberian Peninsula to France and eventually the rest of Europe.
The pipeline is aimed at making the European Union's energy supply more independent, a goal expedited by the Russian invasion of Ukraine last February that precipitated an energy crisis.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said the pipeline, dubbed H2Med, will be able to convey some 2 million metric tons of hydrogen to France annually — 10% of the EU´s estimated hydrogen needs. The project is expected to cost 2.5 billion euros ($2.6 billion).
The announcement came after a meeting between Sánchez, his French and Portuguese counterparts and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in the eastern Spanish city of Alicante.
“Today, the Iberian Peninsula is becoming a major European energy gateway to the world,” Von der Leyen said at a joint press briefing.
French President Emmanuel Macron said H2Med, which replaces an earlier proposal to transport gas across the Pyrenees Mountains, will “take a new path through the Mediterranean and rely on a technology of the future, which is hydrogen.”
“It will also probably allow later other European interconnections toward some other countries which will want to get that hydrogen,” he added.
Portugal, Spain and France struck a broad deal on the plan in October. They hope to present it to the European Commission by Dec. 15 so it will be eligible for EU financing, which could represent as much as 50% of the cost.
The project will first connect two plants in northern Portugal and northern Spain and then involve a pipeline under the Mediterranean Sea from the northeastern Spanish port of Barcelona to France’s Marseille.
“We are strengthening European Union’s strategic autonomy and energy security at a moment when solidarity among Europeans is essential to reduce energy dependency on countries that use energy as a blackmailing tool,” Sánchez said, in reference to Russia and the gas crisis that has emerged since the war in Ukraine.
He said that with the project, they “aspire to be a benchmark not only in Europe, but also worldwide, in the field of hydrogen.”
Spain and Portugal had initially wanted to pipe gas across land to France but Paris rejected that proposal.
“Hydrogen is a game-changer for Europe,” said Von der Leyen.
She said the EU planned to produce 10 million metric tons of renewable hydrogen by 2030 and to import another 10 million tons.
Raquel Redondo in Madrid, Sylvie Corbet in Paris and Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this report.