Red Eléctrica de España and its Moroccan counterpart, L'Office National d'Eléctricité et de l'Eau Potable (ONEE), have identified the exact point where the fluid leak is located in the reserve cable (cable no. 4) that links both countries, a facility jointly-owned in equal shares by REE and ONEE. From the moment the leak was detected, both companies have concentrated their efforts on locating the exact point of the incident.
Upon completion of the pre-location work which enables the affected area to be delimited, a visual inspection with a ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) system this morning detected that the anomaly was in Moroccan waters 21.6 km from the Spanish coast and at a depth of 208 metres. Once the fault was located, all efforts are now focused on sealing the leak. To this end, all the necessary technical and human resources are being mobilised, especially because the depth at which the fault is located makes the repair work particularly complex.
As per the design of the interconnection facility, at the moment the anomaly was detected, the leak containment system automatically sprang into action by reducing the fluid pressure to the minimum level that is technically feasible and thus managed to limit the leak to below 5 litres/hour in the first 2-3 hours. The insulating cooling fluid is biodegradable and, according to a study carried out in January 2017 by the Andalusian Centre of Marine Science and Technologies of the University of Cádiz, the fluid is not harmful to marine life or human health. Furthermore, the study adds that the strong sea currents of the Strait also help disperse the fluid.
The location of the incident has been communicated to the Spanish maritime authorities as well as to all the authorities and groups concerned.
The electricity interconnection between Spain and Morocco is made up of two 400 kV lines, one commissioned in 1997 and the other in 2006, comprising in turn of seven cables: three per circuit, plus one reserve cable. The seven cables run along the seabed from the terminal station of Tarifa, at the Spanish end, to the terminal station of Fardioua, at the Moroccan end.
The security of the electricity supply of the interconnection has not been compromised at any time thanks to its double circuit and the fact that the affected cable (the reserve cable) has been out of service since it became inoperative in September 2018 as a result of an incident caused by external causes. Following the technical validation tests carried out, its definitive repair, initially scheduled for April this year, was delayed due to the cessation of activity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.