Netherlands to Close Europe's Largest Gas Field Due to Earthquakes
Europe's largest gas field in the Dutch city of Groningen is being shut down due to frequent earthquakes.
It is reported by Business.am.
The gas field had been in operation for 60 years. It will only be reopened next year if there are severe frost conditions. The final closure of the gas field is planned for October 1, 2024.
Extensive gas extraction near Groningen led to soil subsidence in the region. Since the 1990s, this has resulted in earthquakes that caused damage to numerous buildings and had adverse effects on the mental health of tens of thousands of people. In 2014, a decision was made to gradually halt gas production. The Dutch government will have to pay at least €22 billion to compensate the provinces of Groningen and Drenthe for their losses.
According to the Groningen Institute for Mining, out of approximately 327,000 homes in the region, at least 127,000 have suffered some degree of damage. More than 3,300 buildings have been demolished in this area since 2012 due to earthquakes making them unsafe.
The Groningen gas field was opened in 1959. Initially, the Dutch government downplayed the volume of the gas field, citing a figure of 60 billion cubic meters.
However, these estimates turned out to be highly conservative. By 1963, the volume of the gas field was already estimated at 1,110 billion cubic meters. Eventually, it became known that the Groningen field contains no less than 2,700 billion cubic meters of natural gas.
Groningen serves as the cornerstone of European gas supply. Despite decades of extraction, there are still approximately 450 billion cubic meters of gas in reserve there, worth about $1 trillion. According to the company Shell, which is involved in the field's operation, it is possible to extract an additional 50 billion cubic meters of gas annually more than is currently being produced.
Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs, Hans Wilbrief, says that continuing gas extraction is risky, but the country cannot ignore the suffering in other European countries. The gas shortage "may force us to make this decision," he says, particularly if hospitals, schools, and homes cannot be properly heated.
Recently, European Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton stated that the Netherlands should reconsider its decision regarding Groningen, and colleagues from other EU countries have been urging Wilbrief. However, the country is currently sticking to its plan.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte does not rule out using Groningen to bolster supply, but only as a last resort if things go awry.
At present, the situation is not so critical. Instead of increasing gas production, the Netherlands has lifted restrictions on coal-fired power station generation, doubled import capacities for liquefied natural gas, and ensured gas storage is filled to 80% before the start of winter.