Algeria has fulfilled its threat not to renew a contract to supply gas to Morocco via the Maghreb-Europe pipeline, citing the “aggressive nature” of Rabat’s government towards Algiers.

The move means Algerian gas supplies to Spain will now be transported through the MedGaz pipeline across the Mediterranean Sea instead of via Morocco and the Strait of Gibraltar which is the route of the Maghreb-Europe line.

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The office of Algeria President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said: “Considering the aggressive nature of the Kingdom of Morocco towards Algeria, which touches on national unity, and after the consultation of the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Energy & Minerals, the president orders Sonatrach to end the commercial relationship with the Moroccan company [ONEE], and not renew the contract.”

Sonatrach is Algeria’s state oil and gas company while ONEE is Morocco’s Office for Electricity & Energy.

Local reports cited ONEE as saying Algeria’s decision to end gas flows would have an “insignificant” impact on Morocco’s electrical grid.

A source familiar with the energy scene in Morocco — which is in the throes of a major renewable-energy drive — said operations at two power stations could be impacted.

Algiers cut diplomatic ties with Morocco on 24 August, accusing Rabat of “hostile actions” for backing Berber separatists in northern Algeria, an allegation that Morocco described as “absurd”.

Western Sahara

The two North African neighbours have always had a frosty relationship, mainly related to Algiers’ history of providing political, financial and military support for an independent Western Sahara — which its indigenous population calls the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.

Campaigning: Brahim Ghali, head of the Polisario Front and the self-declared Sahrawi Democratic Arab Republic, gestures the victory sign during a National Unity Day event in the Dajla refugee camp in Algeria this month Photo: AP/SCANPIX

Morocco has long laid claim to Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, and was delighted when the US administration of Donald Trump recognised this position last year, as part of the Abraham Accords.

However, Rabat’s sovereignty over the territory is still not recognised by either the United Nations or the African Union, and certainly not by Algeria.

Spain gas situation

There had been concerns in Spain about Algeria’s move at a time when gas prices in Europe have spiked, but state-owned gas utility Enagas said on 31 October that Spain has enough gas to last for 40 days.

“There are no objective indications of a lack of gas supply in the coming months.”

Algeria has built a new domestic pipeline to link the Maghreb-Europe with the MedGaz line whose capacity is set to be boosted to 10.5 billion cubic metres per year in December, up from 8 Bcm annually currently.

Algiers is also promising increased deliveries of liquefied natural gas to Spain from its Skikda plant to make up for any shortfall.