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Enagás CEO Envisions an Interconnected Single Energy Market for Europe

Enagás is a Spanish Transmission Systems Operator (TSO) with more than 50 years of experience in the maintenance and operation of gas infrastructure. Its role in the development in the Spanish Gas System has made it a model in terms of both security and the diversification of supply.

As one of Spain’s largest companies, Enagás boasts a market capitalisation of 5.77 billion euros along with 12,000 km of gas pipelines, three underground storage facilities in Serrablo (Huesca), Gaviota (Vizcaya) and Yela (Guadalajara), and four regasification plants in Barcelona, Huelva, Cartagena and Gijón.

The company’s CEO, Mr. Marcelino Oreja, has worked to grow the Enagás presence, not only domestically, but also abroad. In addition to Spain, Enagás operates in eight different countries across Europe and South America. Enagás is a partner in the European Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) gas pipeline, which will transport gas to Europe from the Caspian Sea. The company is a shareholder of the Altamira regasification plant in Mexico and the majority shareholder of Quintero GNL terminal in Chile.

EXPANDING BUSINESS ABROAD

Working at the helm since 2012, Mr. Oreja has spearheaded the internationalisation of Enagás business operations. For him, this is a key part of the company’s ongoing growth strategy. He says the company’s global outlook will help it increase revenue, maintain and grow the expertise of its engineers, and level up the natural gas industry.

“In 2020 we’re going to have 25 percent of our net profit coming from international activity. I think it’s going to be more than that, because I hope by 2020 we will have new investments in some other countries in order to have more of our net profit coming from international activity. We did that because our investment in Spain was almost finished. The Spanish network is mature enough”.

That said, Enagás’ international expansion isn’t about abandoning the Spanish market. The maturity and development of Spain’s natural gas networks means the country’s relevance for the larger European market will only grow. Already, Spain accounts for 39 percent of the total LNG regasification capacity in the EU. Additionally, its advantageous geographic position means it can act as an LNG transportation hub. Indeed, Oreja has taken a bullish stance in his analysis of Spain’s projected role in the European natural gas market.


As Enagás is a partner in the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), the company is directly aiding in the creation of a southern gas corridor to diversify Europe’s energy supplies and create increased energy independence. This is of such high importance to the region that European institutions have labelled it a “Project of Common Interest”. TAP is estimated to cost around 4.5 billion euros, and was given one of the European Investment Bank’s largest loans ever towards the completion of the project, along with a sizeable loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Copyright: Kampoon promsupha/Shutterstock.com

“Spain is really in the right place, we are just in the middle between the exports in the US and the imports within Europe and Asia. Production of gas in Europe is going to decline in the next years, so we are going to need more and more energy introduced into the European Market”, he noted. “Spain will become, I’m sure about this, a guarantee of the security of the supply of gas for the future”, he said with confidence. “The demand in Europe is not going to decline as quickly as the production is going to decline, so we will become a big part of it for the rest of Europe”.

To that end, Enagás is playing a fundamental role in strategic interconnection projects. The present state of the European natural gas market suggests that new partnerships, rather than a formal consolidation of the industry, is most likely over the near-to-medium term. For this reason, Oreja believes, “partnership between all the TSOs (Transmission System Operators) in Europe is going to be very important in the future”.

CURRENT CROSS-BORDER PROJECTS

One of the company’s most significant potential projects is the construction of the so-called MidCat pipeline, being built alongside French natural gas transmission and storage facilities firm Terega, which is owned by Italian natural gas infrastructure company SNAM. Given that the 1,250 km pipeline project is still in the approval phase, the current focus is on a 227 km-long passage that will connect Spanish and French natural gas networks across the Pyrenees.

Oreja is adamant about the pipeline’s benefits and believes that this sort of project is long overdue. “The reason why the project should be done is because it gives a higher security of supply and it integrates different markets. If Spain and France would have been a single country, that pipeline would have been done 30 years ago”.

INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS FOR A PAN-EUROPEAN FUTURE

Most recently, Enagás formed a consortium with Italy’s SNAM and Belgium’s Fluxys resulting in the acquisition of a 66 percent stake in Greece’s DESFA for more than 530 million euros. DESFA was founded in 2007 as Greece’s National Natural Gas System Operator. Its mandate includes the operation, management, exploitation and development of Greece’s natural gas networks. Additionally, DESFA has been on a tender process for 6 years, making this acquisition a win-win for the Greek government as well as all for Enagás, SNAM and Fluxys.

Oreja anticipates Greece will experience an increase in the demand for natural gas as domestic consumption rises and the country become a transportation hub for natural gas flowing northward. From his perspective, the opportunity to capitalise on this emerging market development will be mutually beneficial. He asserts “having a team with three TSOs, with all our experience, I think is good for us because we can work together and learn about each other and [it will be] good for the country, good for Greece and for DESFA”.

Enagás is investing in several projects that its CEO believes hold future earnings for the firm. The company recently participated in the development of a natural gas-fuelled passenger train in Northern Spain. The pilot project, a first of its kind, could transform the transportation industry, specifically in the “reduction of emissions, of particles, of noise”. Oreja pointed-out, “many of those trains go through cities so reducing by 50 percent the noise of the engine is very important for the industry and I’m sure it’s going to be a success”.

SUPPORTING ENERGY ENTREPRENEURSHIP THROUGHOUT SPAIN

This enthusiasm for innovation is a hallmark of Oreja’s managerial approach. For him, initiative and entrepreneurship should be embraced.  In 2015, under his leadership, Enagás’ launched Enagás Emprende, a program of corporate entrepreneurship and open innovation. The program aims to reward innovative business ideas by allowing employees to start their own company while simultaneously taking advantage of the resources and support of a larger, more established firm.  Enagás Emprende has already supported eight ideas in their transformation into viable business projects, the majority of which are building towards a cleaner, more efficient use of natural gas. ‘E4Efficiency’, for example, gained support from Enagás starting last year, for its focus on the development of activities related to energy efficiency for liquefied natural gas terminals. ‘Scale Gas’ was also recognised last year by Enagás, and is now being supported in its research of creating small scale natural gas. These innovative ideas that Enagás is supporting could end up creating the very tools that the company will use to take its endeavours internationally.

This progressive approach filters into Oreja’s vision of the European energy market at large. “If we are building a European Union, we need to see Europe also as a single country in how the countries are connected, for both gas and for electricity, and that is easy to see. We have no borders now in the European Union, so let’s have no borders in the electricity and the gas industry”.

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South EU Summit's editorial team is comprised of an international team of journalists and communication specialists with wide-ranging areas of expertise. We pride ourselves in developing firsthand content, and undertaking personal interviews with the most influential players in each market.

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