Due to many earthquakes, the Netherlands is closing the largest gas field in Europe


The Netherlands has stopped production from Europe’s largest gas field in the province of Groningen. According to authorities, production in the Groningen field, which has been plagued by earthquakes for years (the result of the exploitation of the deposits), ended on Sunday.

However, eleven boreholes at the site, which opened in the 1960s, must remain open for a year in case of a “harsh winter”. Despite the closure, experts warn that earthquakes could continue in the region. The underground gas fields near Groningen in the north of the Netherlands are the largest gas reserves in Europe.

For more than two decades, residents have complained about earthquakes directly attributed to the exploitation of the deposits. Gas production has therefore decreased in recent years. In 2021, only 4.5 billion cubic meters of gas were produced in Groningen. In previous years this was more than 20 billion cubic meters.

Gas production must be completely stopped by 2022. In view of the global energy crisis in the wake of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, the government declared last fall that a further 2.8 billion cubic meters of gas must be extracted – the minimum amount needed to operate existing sites and infrastructure.

“Little attention to long-term risks”
A parliamentary inquiry committee report published in February accused Dutch authorities of paying “little attention to the long-term risks” in the successful promotion. The parliamentarians called on the government to take action.

The cabinet under Prime Minister Mark Rutte finally decided in June to completely stop production as of October 1. “Due to the uncertain international situation,” the government explained at the time that it would remain possible to extract gas from the site for another year “in very exceptional situations” – for example in “very severe cold” or in the event of a gas shortage. The last eleven boreholes would then be “permanently closed” by October 2024.

The gas field has been exploited since the 1960s
The oil giants Shell Netherlands and ExxonMobil have equal shares in the NAM group, which has been responsible for the exploitation of the Groningen gas field since the 1960s. A Shell executive also said in March that the government should close the field.

According to Shell, a total of approximately 2.3 billion cubic meters has been removed from the deposit. Between 1963 and 2020, approximately 429 billion euros were generated from Groningen gas. 85 percent of these profits went to the Dutch treasury.

Only minimal compensation for residents
Although the earthquakes caused serious damage to homes in the area, residents received only minimal compensation, the parliamentary report shows. Those affected are therefore trapped in a web of bureaucratic obstacles and bungling.

Source: Krone


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