Pipeline problems could hinder occupation plans

The North-African pipeline freeze might delay Morocco's plans to supply occupied Western Sahara with Algerian gas. 

22 April 2022

Illustration photo above: Gas Cerbeus photographed last year. The vessel transported gas from Norway, the exporter regretted the incident and promised it would not happen again. (Photo: Gerolf Drebes)

The chaotic new situation for gas supplies to Europe may also affect Morocco's plans to secure gas supplies to the territory of Western Sahara that it keeps under foreign occupation.  

A roadmap published on the Moroccan government's website suggests that there were plans to have the Algerian pipeline which currently goes via Morocco into Spain, also fuel gas into occupied Western Sahara in the future. 

The notice refers to this idea as part of its “long term plans” for 2030-2050 to connect the Maghreb–Europe Gas Pipeline (or ‘GME’) to “Agadir-Dakhla”. Dakhla is the southernmost city of Western Sahara.  

The construction of a pipeline to Dakhla would be the third and last stage in a large plan of connecting the Algerian GME-transported gas to cities further south. 

In the short term, the Moroccan plan was to construct a pipeline connecting the GME to the town of Berrechid (via Kenitra and Mohammedia) by 2025. In the medium term, the pipeline would be extended to Agadir (via Jorf Lasfar) by 2030, and then, in the final stage, from Agadir all the way to Dakhla by 2050.

The short 1-page roadmap is found on the website of the Moroccan government [or download]. The plan was published in August 2021, just months prior to Algeria's ending of the GME cooperation, and naturally prior to the Russia-Ukraine crisis. The roadmap was at the time referred to in Moroccan media. 

The gas pipeline that crosses Moroccan territory on its way from Algeria to Spain was commissioned in 1996. However, due to diplomatic tensions between Algeria and Morocco, the 25-year long operation contract was not renewed by Algeria upon expiring in October 2021. Instead, Algeria shifted its export route to the Medgaz pipeline which runs on the seafloor directly from Algeria to Spain. 

As a response to this, the Moroccan government has been obliged to think of new ways to secure its own gas supplies. The Moroccan government announced in March that sellers of LNG could send it to Spain, where it can be regasified, before being sent in the, now unused, GME pipeline across the Strait of Gibraltar southwards to Morocco.  

The government also announced that it is entering the market of purchasing LNG from April 2022, and it is beginning the work to adapt 4 ports to receive LNG

On 18 April 2022, the Moroccan minister of Energy transition and sustainable development announced that Dakhla could also be a future port of transformation of liquified gas. 

Western Sahara Resource Watch has over the last years followed Morocco's imports of gas into the occupied territory of Western Sahara. The gas arrives aboard tankers, with a new vessel calling in approximately once a month. In 2021, around half the gas that had arrived in Western Sahara came from the Netherlands and the US, our surveillance shows. 

There have seemingly been large shifts in the trends of gas supplies into the territory. In the past, the energy was mostly shipped from Spain, but from 2020 onwards, the vessels starting coming in from a more varied range of export harbours. 

The gas supplies into Western Sahara facilitate Morocco's occupation of the territory. 

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