The Dutch oil and gas company NAM, which is in charge of developing the country’s natural gas reserves, has advised economic affairs minister Eric Wiebes to cut back gas production substantially in the vulnerable Groningen field in the northern Netherlands.
This is the first time that the NAM has so explicitly advised a reduction in gas production, the Financieele Dagblad said on Thursday. Most of the profit from gas extraction goes to the treasury.
The move follows Monday’s earthquake, which registered 3.4 on the Richter scale. This was the second-strongest earthquake recorded above the Groningen gas fields and the biggest in five years.
Production has been reduced sharply over the past five years following government intervention because of the earthquakes. In 2013, production from the Groningen field was 54 billion cubic metres and this is set to fall to 21.6 billion cubic metres this year.
However, locals are pressing for bigger cuts and have taken their campaign to court.
NAM did not make any recommendations about how much further to slash production – a decision which will now be taken by the mining inspectorate and ministry officials, the FD said.
Thousands of homes have been damaged by the quakes to date and the bill for repairs is mounting.
Wiebes told villagers in Zeerijp, the epicentre of the most recent quake, on Wednesday that damages claims should be handled more quickly. ‘We’ve been talking for far too long and we have to take some decisions,’ he said. ‘Even I am now impatient.’
Shell and Esso jointly set up NAM in 1947 and it produced gas from smaller fields until the vast Groningen field was discovered in 1959. The Groningen field is one of the world’s largest gas fields (an estimated 2,800 billion cubic metres).