Mining body advises: agree gas policy with Groningen

Earthquakes in the north have damaged houses. Photo:

Future national gas policy should be agreed with the residents of Groningen, according to mining supervisory body SodM.

The body has been consulted by the government on the safety risks of taking more gas from the field and the best policy for years ahead.

Due to decades of earthquake damage, the government originally intended to compensate residents and stop production in Groningen this year, but this has been pushed forward to 2023 or 2024.

Production in 2022 was already likely to increase to 4.6 billion cubic metres, driven by contracts to supply Germany and delays in a plant to make foreign gas suitable for domestic use. Now there are questions about increasing Groningen gas production even more as a ‘last option’ to reduce Russian gas imports.

However in a letter to junior minister for mining Hans Vijlbrief, SodM has said residents need clarity and they must agree to any proposal.

‘People in the earthquake region are living in uncertainty,’ said Theodor Kockelkoren, inspector general of mines. ‘They have no say in what gas extraction does to their lives, the earthquakes and cracks that go on and on. Some have been waiting for years for their houses to be reinforced, clearly at the expense of their safety, health and wellbeing.

‘So I advise the junior secretary to give residents a voice in the future scenario, to take account of what they feel most impacts their sense of uncertainty and safety.’

In the two plans on the table, Groningen production could be stopped in either 2023 or 2024, with the help of a gas storage facility in Grijpskerk and a plant to mix other, higher-calorie gas with nitrogen to make it suitable for domestic use.

The SodM has previously advised that it is best not to increase production in Groningen since too few houses have been reinforced. However prime minister Mark Rutte has repeatedly called for Europe to become less dependent on Russian oil and gas and, given the war on Ukraine, Dutch ministers have fought shy of giving any guarantees.

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