Further reduction in Groningen gas extraction, more rapid strengthening of homes
The government has decided to further scale back gas extraction from the Groningen field in 2015. Efforts to strengthen homes will also be stepped up in the coming year, with sufficient capacity available to reinforce 3,000 homes in 2015, and 5,000 homes in 2016. A public body in the region will help manage these activities together with the CVW (Centrum Veilig Wonen - Safe Living Centre), which has been set up to coordinate the work of resolving earthquake damage issues.
Minister Henk Kamp of Economic Affairs met with local government administrators from Groningen on Tuesday 16 December to discuss the decision. On Wednesday 17 December Minister Kamp will be in Groningen to explain the reasons behind this decision.
"Gas extraction is a source of great unrest in Groningen. I will continue to take the concerns of residents very seriously, and will do whatever is needed to improve their safety", said the Minister. "In January this year we already announced we would reduce the extraction of gas in the area over the next three years. In 2014 we have held various consultations and carried out a substantial amount of research. Based on additional recommendations from State Supervision of Mines, we have now decided to cut production even further in 2015 and 2016. Moreover, in 2015 a large-scale operation will be launched to strengthen homes and other buildings."
Reduced gas extraction
State Supervision of Mines has indicated that the areas around Loppersum – where gas extraction was reduced by 80 % in 2014 – have also seen a reduction in seismic activity. However, the extraction activities in the south of the Groningen gas field, which have increased by 31%, have been accompanied by an increase in seismic activity. Although no firm conclusions can be drawn on the basis of this data, State Supervision of Mines has recommended reducing gas extraction in the south of the field (Hoogezand-Sappemeer) from 13.0 billion m3 in 2014 to 9.9 billion m3 in 2015. In line with this, it is recommended that total gas production in 2015 is reduced by 3.1 billion m3 compared to 2014. State Supervision of Mines has established that seismic activity in the rest of the gas field has remained stable.
The government has based its decision on these additional recommendations made by State Supervision of Mines. Total production in the Groningen gas field will therefore drop from 42.5 billion m3 in 2014 to 39.4 billion m3 in 2015, a reduction of 7.3 percent. Gas extraction in 2012 and 2013 amounted to 47.8 and 53.9 billion m3 respectively. Gas extraction in 2015 will be 27% lower than in 2013. However, in 2013 natural gas extraction was higher than in other years due to a much colder winter. Gas extraction in 2015 will be 17.4 % lower compared to 2012. Cutting gas production will reduce state gas revenues in 2014 and 2015 by 700 million euros and 130 million euros respectively.
The safety of Groningen residents is paramount. In 2014 almost 5,000 inspections were carried out and measures to improve safety were implemented at 357 homes. Capacity will be made available to strengthen 3,000 homes in 2015, and 5,000 homes in 2016. Priority will be given to homes at highest risk and those in the area of Loppersum. The reinforcement measures will be carried out in consultation with residents and municipal authorities.
The CVW will commission reinforcement work on thousands of homes. This is a large-scale operation, and a government entity in the region will coordinate these activities together with the provincial and municipal authorities. Rapid decision making and processing of permits will help this work to be completed more quickly. The extent to which this process can be supported by the Crisis and Recovery Act will be also reviewed. The CVW will start work immediately in the new year.
Improving the quality of life
In addition to strengthening buildings and homes, substantial investments will be made in the regional economy, infrastructure, and the quality of life in the area. On Tuesday 16 December, the Economic Board, which was especially set up for this purpose, presented an action plan in which 97.5 million euros is earmarked for these investments over the next few years. This amount is part of the 1.2 billion euros which was made available for the area at the beginning of 2014.