The findings come in a scientific report from Shell and gas extraction company NAM and published in the the Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth.
Parts of Groningen have for years been hit by earthquakes and there is mounting opposition to gas extraction in the province because of the damage to property. The quakes occur as the ground settles in areas where the gas has been removed.
Earlier this month, economic affairs minister Henk Kamp agreed to again reduce the volume of natural gas extracted, this time to 16.5 billion cubic metres in the first six months of this year.
For the report, researchers made an estimate of the risks of stronger earthquakes as the gas fields empty. Between now and 2023, there is a 50% risk of a much more powerful earthquake than the strongest so far, the researchers found. That centred on Huizinge in 2012 and reached 3.6 on the Richter scale.
There is also a 10% risk of earthquakes of 4.6 on the Richter scale.
According to NAM, the research confirms earlier findings. ‘We must take stronger earthquakes in the future into account,’ the NAM told the AD.
Last week, the safety research council OVV said in a report that maximising profit was the main driver for the extraction of natural gas from underneath Groningen province and public safety took a back seat.