Mediterranean Gas Pipelines Fall Victim to Politics

15th February 2021

Exclusive: Mediterranean Gas Pipelines Fall Victim to Politics

Francis Ghilès on what history tells us about building Mediterranean pipelines and offers a tale of caution to those who might be tempted to believe that connecting the Mediterranean to Europe is a possibility.

In 1983, the Trans-Mediterranean Pipeline (TransMed), also known as the Enrico Mattei pipeline (in homage to the legendary founder of the Italian oil company ENI who died in an unexplained plane crash in 1962) was commissioned in great pomp. The first ever underwater gas pipeline, which took five years to build, would carry Algerian gas to Italy through Tunisia and under the Straight of Sicily. The pipeline offered a safer way to carry gas from one country, in this case one continent to another, as opposed to Liquefied Natural Gas ships, the first of which started carrying liquefied gas, at minus 160 degrees centigrade, from Arzew in Western Algeria to Canvey Island in the Thames estuary in 1964. The TransMed was a feat of engineering for the Italian company Saipem...

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The author, Francis Ghilès, writing exclusively for the Frontier Energy Network, was a speaker at the North Africa & Mediterranean E&P Summit hosted and organised by Frontier recently. Graduate with honours in Political Science from Grenoble, he has been awarded postgraduate degrees from St Antony's College, Oxford and the University of Keele. Specialises in security, financial and energy trends in Europe and the Western Mediterranean. He has written on international capital markets for Euromoney and the Financial Times. He was the FT's North Africa Correspondent from 1981 to 1995. Francis Ghilès is also a freelancer for newspapers including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde, El Pais and La Vanguardia. He is a frequent commentator in the broadcasting media, notably the BBC World Service. He has acted as adviser to Western governments (UK, France and the US) and to major European, American and Japanese corporations working in North Africa. His interests are focused on analysing emerging trends concerning gas and linking them with the political priorities of Spain, Europe and the USA.