Italy's Draghi discussed idea of Italy-Spain pipeline with Sanchez

ROME, March 31 (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said he had discussed the idea of building a gas pipeline to Spain with his Spanish counterpart as part of plans to wean Europe off Russian gas.

"There is the idea of the Italy-Spain gas pipeline, which we discussed with (Prime Minister Pedro) Sanchez in Rome and also at the European Council," Draghi said on Thursday.

Spain has the largest regasification capacity in Europe but transporting the gas into Europe across the Pyrenees has been a problem because of bottlenecks.

Europe, which sources about 40% of gas supplies from Russia, has been scrambling to find alternatives and diversify its supply mix following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

"The southern Mediterranean countries of Europe are now realizing they can be very important hubs for gas today but also, and above all, for hydrogen tomorrow," Draghi said at a press conference.

On Thursday, Spanish gas transporter Enagas ENAG.MC said it was weighing options with Madrid and operators in neighbouring countries to beef up Spain's interconnections to transport gas and hydrogen.

Draghi said that while replacing 30-40% of Russian supplies could be done immediately, it would be much harder to replace the rest.

Italy, which has pipeline connections to Algeria, Libya and Azerbaijan, is keen to increase LNG imports to cut its reliance on Russia.

"There is another hypothesis, the EastMed gas pipeline... The EU Commission is studying the feasibility of the pipeline," Draghi said.

State-controlled energy group Eni ENI.MI has in the past said gas projects in east Mediterranean countries such as Egypt, Cyprus and Israel could be key to helping Europe diversify.
Reporting by Crispian Balmer, additional reporting by Isla Binnie in Madrid, writing by Stephen Jewkes, editing by Gianluca Semeraro and Bernadette Baum

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