Gas group NAM says more serious earthquakes will hit Groningen

People living in Groningen province will have to expect more and possibly more severe earthquakes because of natural gas extraction, the head of gas company NAM has told the NRC.

‘If you realise the Groningen gas fields will still supply us for 50 more years, then there will be more and possibly more severe quakes caused by our gas extraction,’ Bart van de Leemput told the paper. ‘But in 20 years time we expect there will be fewer.’

Earlier this year, experts calculated the risk of an earthquake of more than 4.1 on the Richter scale at 10%.

On Tuesday, the region was hit by a quake measuring 2.8 on the Richter scale. The impact was unusually also felt in Groningen city. NAM has received more than 250 reports of damage, over 130 of which were in the city itself, the NRC said.

Debate

MPs have called for a debate with economic affairs minister Henk Kamp about the earthquake threat.

NAM, a 50:50 joint venture between Shell and Exxon/Mobil, has had some 19,000 reports of quake damage so far, and carried out 3,000 street inspections. A further 5,000 homes still need to be inspected, the director told the NRC.

‘Sometimes we have to take down a chimney. In dozens of cases we’ve had to place supports,’ Van de Leemput said. ‘No-one is happy about it but at least the houses are safer.’

At the beginning of this year the government agreed to scale back gas production because of the earthquake risk. Total production, which reached almost 53 billion cubic metres last year, will be cut back around 20% to 42.5 billion cubic metres this year and in 2015, and reduced again to 40 billion cubic metres in 2016.

This will cost the treasury €2.3bn in lost income over the three-year period. In addition, ministers have earmarked an extra €1.2bn for Groningen province to strengthen buildings and the infrastructure.