Shale gas production marginal, says minister as opposition mounts

If the Netherlands gave the green light to shale gas production it would only account for a couple of percent of current natural gas production, economic affairs minister Henk Kamp is quoted as saying by the Volkskrant.

MPs want to hold a debate with Kamp on research his department is carrying out into possible shale gas extraction from deep underground. That report is due in July.

The paper says Kamp is tempering expectations in some quarters that shale gas could lead to an economic boost.

He estimates annual production would be between two and four billion cubic metres, just 5% of the volume produced by the Slochteren and other natural gas fields. The state earned €12bn from natural gas sales in 2011.

Warning

According to Trouw on Wednesday, brewing groups Heineken, Grolsch and Bavaria have come out against shale gas, arguing that the protection of clean drinking water supplies is of primary importance.

Last week, Utrecht water company Vitens warned that extracting shale gas would mean drilling through fresh water reserves. Brabant Water has also made its objections known.

At the beginning of April, the Financieele Dagblad reported support for extracting shale gas from under the Netherlands is fading and an increasing number of local councils are taking a stand.

So far, 33 of the country’s 400 local authority areas have declared they are opposed to shale gas extraction, the paper said. Some 170 councils are thought to be sitting on shale or coal gas reserves.

Fracking

Shale gas is ordinary natural gas that has been trapped in dense shale beds. It is extracted using a controversial process known as fracking, which involves drilling a hole deep into the shale and pumping in water mixed with sand and chemicals.

Kamp told the Volkskrant he is not impressed by councils which declare themselves to be ‘shale gas free’.

Trouw says the government has already granted test drilling licences for the Noordoostpolder region north east of Amsterdam and for Boxtel in Brabant.

Applications have also been made for test drills in Noord-Holland, Utrecht, Flevoland and Gelderland. However, all drilling is currently on hold pending the outcome of the economic affairs ministry report, the paper says.

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