The Netherlands will turn off the Groningen gas fields on October 1 this year, and a year later close them down permanently, mines minister Hans Vijlbrief confirmed on Friday.
The fields will remain operational for an additional year in case there is a very cold winter ahead, but then the infrastructure will be dismantled, he said.
The decision to close the fields ends 60 years of gas extraction from under the province, which has generated billions of euros for the treasury.
Vijlbrief admitted the problems caused by earthquakes resulting from land settling are not yet over. “The people of Groningen’s problems have not been solved and the quakes will unfortunately continue for some time,” he said. “But at least the source of all the trouble is being closed down in October.”
The cabinet agreed in March 2018 to phase out gas extraction in the province because of the quakes, which have damaged tens of thousands of homes.
A parliamentary commission said earlier this year the interests of the people of Groningen were systematically ignored by both the government and oil companies, and making money remained the dominant concern when natural gas extraction started causing earthquakes.
More than 1,600 quakes of up to 3.6 on the Richter scale have hit the province since 1986. Some 85,000 buildings have been damaged at least once, but to date only 30% of homes have been made safe again.
The Dutch state has earned more than €360 billion from the exploitation of the Groningen gas field since extraction began in 1963.
Total revenues from the gas region amounted to €428 billion when adjusted for inflation, of which €360 billion went into the government coffers while €66 billion was split between Shell and ExxonMobil, the joint owners of NAM, the company set up in 1963 to distribute Dutch gas.
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