Third earthquake linked to gas drilling in Drenthe in past month

Three minor earthquakes in Drenthe in the past month are linked to gas drilling in the Eleveld field, the meteorological agency KNMI has confirmed.

The most recent on Saturday night was detected in the village of Ekehaar, just south of Assen, and measured 2.2 on the Richter scale.

A week ago a smaller quake measuring 1.3 was felt in the same village, while on October 2 a 1.9 quake was measured further south in Hooglaren. All three locations are above the small Eleveld gas field.

More than 1,000 earthquakes linked to gas extraction measuring up to 3.6 on the Richter scale have been recorded in the Slochteren gas field in Groningen since 1986, but quakes in the neighbouring province of Drenthe are much rarer.

The three latest quakes are the first to be felt in the Eleveld region since 2014. The mining regulator SodM said it was investigating the cause.

Ripple effect

A spokesman said the earthquakes could be a ripple effect linked to the shutdown of gas production in Groningen, which may have caused the underground pressure in neighbouring fields to equalise.

“Natural gas flows from places with high pressure to places with low pressure. This process also causes tension on fault lines deep underground, which can cause earthquakes,” the spokesman said.

The Council of State gave the go-ahead in 2020 for drilling to continue in smaller gas fields in Drenthe despite opposition from local residents, who argued that the risks have been underestimated.

No major reports of damage have been received, local broadcaster RTV Drenthe said, which may be due to the fact that the soil in the area is predominantly sand, which absorbs the impact better than the clay-based soil in Groningen.

The ministry of economic affairs has advised residents to report any earthquake damage to the Commissie Mijnbouwschade, which oversees compensation for the effects of mine working outside Groningen.

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