Dutch watchdog urges gas extraction cut to limit earthquakes
The government of the Netherlands is to decide on the level of extraction allowed from the lucrative Groningen gas field, one of the world’s largest natural gas reserves.
A mining watchdog has advised the Dutch government to significantly decrease the amount of gas extracted from the north-eastern region of Groningen, saying a cut is necessary to reduce the risk of damage caused by subsequent earthquakes.
The Dutch State Supervision of Mines urged the government to slash the amount of gas extracted from this year’s maximum of 24 billion cubic metres (31.4 billion cubic yards) to 12 billion cubic metres (15.7 billion cubic yards).
The advice is likely to be a determining factor in a decision expected soon from the government on the level of extraction allowed from the lucrative Groningen gas field, one of the world’s largest natural gas reserves.
Inspector general of mines Theodor Kockelkoren said: “A major intervention is necessary in order to probably meet the safety standard and to reduce the risk of damage.”
Mr Kockelkoren said there remain many uncertainties in linking production cuts to a drop in the frequency and intensity of quakes.
“We therefore choose to be on the conservative side,” he said. “After all, it concerns the safety of the inhabitants of Groningen.”
Thousands of homes have suffered significant damage in the region caused by hundreds of small quakes in recent years. Research by the University of Groningen and local health authorities suggests that thousands of residents are suffering stress-related health problems attributable to the quakes.
Shutting off the gas is not as simple as it sounds; in another report published on Thursday, gas network company Gasunie Transport Services said that to ensure security of supply in this country where almost all homes and many industries burn natural gas, the minimum production ceiling should be 14 billion cubic metres (18.3 billion cubic yards) in a warm year, and as high as 27 billion cubic metres (35.3 billion cubic yards) in an extremely cold year.
The gas is extracted by a joint venture between Shell and ExxonMobil, which has to foot the bill for the damage caused by quakes.