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    Algeria's Boutarfa in Spain for Talks


Algerian energy minister Noureddine Boutarfa was in Madrid this week for talks with key Spanish officials and companies but no major initiatives were unveiled.

by: Mark Smedley

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Algeria's Boutarfa in Spain for Talks

Algerian energy minister Noureddine Boutarfa was in Madrid on May 15-16 for talks with key Spanish officials and companies.

Boutarfa's office said he met senior executives from Repsol, Cepsa, Enagas, contractor Tecnicas Reunidas, construction group Villar Mir and solar energy developer Terra Sola for talks ranging from E&P through petrochemicals to renewable energy.

He also met Spain's energy minister Alvaro Nadal and foreign affairs minister Alfonso Dastis. The official statement added that both sides expressed "a desire to reinforce Algerian-Spanish co-operation as well as investment in new mutually beneficial and wealth- plus employment-creating activities."

The ministerial talks discussed gas and electric interconnection projects between the two countries along with gas sales partnerships, said Algiers.

Nadal's office said he offered the experience and knowledge of Spanish firms in the energy sector, in regasification, renewable and infrastructure projects, and that both ministers stressed their countries' "excellent bilateral relations, particularly on energy."

Nadal said that Boutarfa had expressed interest in a feasibility study being undertaken into a possible electricity interconnector between the two countries. The Spanish minister also said that some 300 Spanish firms do business in Algeria, with the largest having secured $4.8bn of contracts in recent years.

Spanish energy minister Alvaro Nadal (left) with his Algerian counterpart Noureddine Boutarfa at their mid-May Madrid meeting (Photo credit: Spanish energy ministry)

Repsol, Cepsa and Enagas issued no statements on their websites. For a year now, Cepsa reportedly has been keen to divest its 42% stake in the Medgaz 8bn m³/yr subsea gas pipeline connecting Algeria to southeast Spain but has met opposition from Algerian state-owned Sonatrach, which wants Spanish gas importers to retain equity interests in the pipeline.

It's unclear why the talks did not include Gas Natural, in which Sonatrach has a small minority stake and which – despite disputes in the past – remains a modest gas supplier to GN.

Repsol and GN in the past have taken disputes to international arbitration against Algeria or Sonatrach, but remaining lingering disputes have been settled since Boutarfa took office, with bilateral relations improved and Algeria keen to foster Spain as a route for its piped gas exports into France.

Algeria provided 56% (19.5bn m3) of Spain's gas supplies in the 12 months to April 2017, according to data from Spanish gas grid operator Enagas. Just 13% of the Algerian figure was LNG - partly impacted by an unscheduled outage this January at Algeria's Skidka plant - with the rest being piped.

Boutarfa is expected for talks in Moscow with his Russian counterpart Alexander Novak on May 18.


Mark Smedley