By Chris King •
Updated: 02 Oct 2023 • 2:33
Image of Groningen gas field in the Netherlands.
Credit: Rudmer Zwerver/Shutterstock.com
ALL production at the Groningen gas field, one of the key sources of gas for Western Europe, was stopped this Sunday, October 1.
After 60 years, gas extraction was brought to a halt due to the earthquake risks and the suffering caused to local residents in the north of the Netherlands.
However, in an exceptional case of a bad winter, it may be necessary to resume extraction, so there is a chance that the gas tap could be opened again in 2024. That is why the Dutch government decided to delay dismantling the gas wells until October 1, 2024.
Hans Vijlbrief, the State Secretary of Mining, like the province and other Groningen politicians and interest groups, would have preferred that the wells were now closed permanently.
Despite the closure of the Groningen field, earthquakes continue, damage continues to occur, and buildings do not yet meet safety standards.
This fact was emphasised by the Groningen authorities after the release of the highly critical report of the parliamentary inquiry committee on gas extraction. The government adopted the conclusion that a ‘debt of honour’ must be repaid to the region.
Last week, Vijlbrief signed the bill that regulated the final closure of the gas extraction locations on October 1, 2024. If the House of Representatives agrees to this as expected, then the decision will be final.
Gas extraction officially stopped early on Sunday morning at the office of the Dutch Petroleum Company (NAM). The Shell and ExxonMobil company acknowledged that the earthquakes had placed a heavy burden on the people living above the gas field.
Production at the Groningen field began in 1963 after a large gas reserve was discovered near Slochteren in 1959. The plant quickly became ‘a key source of gas for much of Western Europe’, wrote dagblad070.nl.
In the decades that followed, it generated billions of euros for the Dutch treasury. But, there was also a downside. It soon became clear that gas extraction also had negative consequences, such as movements in the soil, which caused damage to houses and buildings.
This was made clear in 1986 by the first earthquake. However, politicians still maintained at the time that gas extraction could cause earthquakes.
On August 16, 2012, a strong earthquake occurred near Huizinge, with a magnitude of 3.6 on the Richter scale. It is the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Groningen to date. As a result, the NAM admitted that drilling for gas caused earthquakes.
According to the Groningen Institute – which assessed damage from the mining industry – at least 127,000 of the region’s 327,000 homes were damaged by gas-related earthquakes over the years.
A plan to pay compensation to local residents affected by man-made earthquakes was previously approved by the Government. The total amount of compensation will be €22 billion over the next 30 years.
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Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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