Saturday 10 December 2022

Groningen gas extraction could double this year, despite earthquake problems

This cafe in Zeerijp has been shored up for years. Photo: Graham Dockery

People living in Groningen province have reacted with shock to the news that gas production may double this year, partly to meet contractual obligations with Germany.

The production of Groningen gas is currently being wound down because of the earthquake damage and from 2023 the reserves will only be accessed in cases of emergency.

However, Germany says it needs an extra 1.1 billion cubic metres, because energy saving measures have not been as efficient as hoped, the economic affairs ministry said in briefing to MPs on Thursday evening. Some five million households in Germany are connected to the Groningen gas grid.

A second problem is the delay to the expansion of a nitrogen extraction plant in Zuidbroek. The Netherlands hopes to replace the use of Groningen gas with imports from abroad, by mixing nitrogen with more calorific imported gas to make it suitable for cooking and central heating.

The ministry will take a final decision by April, but depending on the weather, gas production could be increased to 7.6 billion cubic metres to meet both German and local demand, the department said.

‘This is a slap in the face for our residents,’ provincial council executive Tjeerd van Dekken told local broadcaster RTV Noord. ‘This is an unacceptable situation. It seems that Germany is short of gas and that has to be sold at the expense of Groningen.’

MPs have also reacted with shock and anger at the news. ‘The cabinet briefing contains not one word about the damages claims, not one word about strengthening houses, not one word about compensation,’ Socialist MP Sandra Beckerman said.

Damage

Thousands of people are still waiting for compensation or help with making their houses safe following years of earthquakes caused by the ground settling after natural gas extraction. More than 1,000 quakes of up to 3.6 on the Richter scale have hit the province since 1986.

So far, 126,356 reports of damage caused by the quakes have been made to an official government institute set up to process claims. Up to now, €1.15bn has been allocated to home owners and others to pay for damage.

The new government has a minister – former junior finance minister Hans Vijlbrief – with specific responsibility for sorting out compensation for people whose property has been damaged by the quakes.

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