The Dutch government has given the green lights to plans to develop a new gas field in the North Sea, 19 kilometres off the coast of the Wadden Sea island of Schiermonnikoog, despite plans to phase out the use of gas and opposition from the islands themselves.
Mines minister Hans Vijlbrief said on Wednesday that the drilling could go ahead and that reports showed all the environmental conditions were being met. He did acknowledge there are still concerns, and has ordered the rig to be lower, so it is less visible on the horizon.
‘The Dutch government has been prepared to grant this licence for some time,’ he said. ‘[German partner] Lower Saxony was not ready at first, but given the war in Ukraine has now changed its position.’
Ineke van Gent, the mayor of Schiermonnikoog, which has a population of under 1,000, said the ‘entire island is against it’. The five Wadden island councils are concerned that drilling for gas will damage a ‘unique natural area’ and have consequences for the island dwellers themselves.
‘It is a no go, as far as we are concerned,’ she told RTL Nieuws. ‘We are now looking into what to do next… I hope that there will be a proper debate in parliament and that the decision can be halted. The last word has not been said.’
The gas will brought to Eemshaven via a pipeline and the electricity will come from an offshore German wind farm. The first gas will be brought ashore in 2024.
According to Chris de Ruyter van Steveninck, director of Dutch firm One-Dyas which will carry out the drilling, the field and those nearby have a potential of 60 billion cubic mebres. The Netherlands uses 40 billion cubic metres of gas a year, Germany 90 billion
‘We think that we can supply 5% of Dutch gas demand on an annual basis,’ De Ruyter van Steveninck told broadcaster NOS in April. ‘Local gas is cleaner, more reliable and more affordable than imported gas.’
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