(Bloomberg) -- Powerful clouds of the super-emitter methane have been spotted by satellite in northwest Algeria, near a conduit that appears to branch off from the Medgaz Gas Pipeline, which supplies about a quarter of the natural gas consumed in Spain.Three plumes were observed by a European Space Agency satellite on May 26 and 27. The most severe had an emissions rate of 118 tons of methane an hour and was approximately 13 kilometers from what looks like a distribution line connected to the Medgaz Gas Pipeline, according to analysis from geoanalytics company Kayrros SAS and Global Energy Monitor. The plume was about 50 kilometers away from the mainline.

Using the emissions rate estimated by Kayrros, if the most severe release lasted an hour, it would have the same short term climate impact as the annual emissions from more than 2,000 US cars.Although Algeria is a global methane hotspot, historically emissions there have been observed near the Hassi R’Mel gas field in the eastern part of the country. Scientists recently determined equipment associated with the field had been leaking methane for nearly 40 years.

Algerian state oil and gas company Sonatrach, which owns and operates virtually all of the section of the Medgaz Gas Pipeline that runs from the Hassi R’Mel field to the Algerian coast, declined to comment. A spokesman for the country’s energy ministry didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.Naturgy Energy Group S.A., which operates the portion of the Medgaz Gas Pipeline that runs under the Alboran Sea until it reaches Spain, also declined to comment. Naturgy and Sonatrach said last July they were expanding the pipeline’s capacity 25% to a total of 10 billion cubic meters a year from the fourth quarter of 2021 onwards. Naturgy Chairman Francisco Reynes said in the statement that the infrastructure “strengthens the security of the natural gas supply to Spain, and is key to providing guarantees and stability to the ecological transition and decarbonisation process.’’Read More: Europe Faces an Old Methane Hotspot in Rush to Exit Russian GasBut if Algeria, which provides about 8% of Europe’s gas imports and is the continent’s third biggest supplier after Russia and Norway, can’t curb  massive and sustained methane releases observed by satellite it may jeopardize its ability to play a role in Europe’s energy transition. The European Union is seeking to tighten control of leaks from within the bloc and from key sources outside the continent.

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