Extraction of natural gas in Groningen reduced to 24 billion cubic metres

Over the next five gas years, the extraction of natural gas from the Groningen field will be limited to 24 billion cubic metres per gas year. The aim is for as even a distribution of extraction as possible, with as few fluctuations as possible. Extra gas may only be produced in the event of a cold winter or if otherwise absolutely necessary. These provisions are at the heart of the draft decree on natural gas extraction in Groningen, which Economic Affairs Minister Henk Kamp presented today. The Cabinet thus follows the advice of the State Supervision of Mines (SodM), Gasunie Transport Services (GTS), the technical committee for ground movement (Technische commissie bodembeweging - Tcbb), the Mining Council (Mijnraad), provinces, municipalities, and water agencies.

Minister Kamp: ‘We have decided to further restrict the extraction of natural gas to 24 billion cubic metres per gas year. This new, lower production level is in line with our approach over recent years aimed at limiting safety risks and loss to the people of Groningen as far as possible. This approach is working: the number of earth tremors and their intensity has fallen significantly. This decision means that the natural gas extraction from the Groningen field has halved since the current Cabinet took office in 2012. In combination with the work carried out to strengthen house and buildings , we hope this will help to recover the trust of the people of Groningen and increase their feeling of safety.’

Advice of SodM: uniform extraction in the interests of safety

The advice of SodM indicates that earlier measures taken in respect of the extraction of natural gas have resulted in a significant reduction in earth tremors and their intensity. SodM anticipates that a reduction in production level to 24 billion cubic metres per gas year combined with an avoidance of fluctuations in the extraction of the natural gas will lead to a reduction in the number of earth tremors. SodM regards a further reduction in production level as imprudent, given that in cold winters this will lead to fluctuations which will actually increase the risk of earth tremors.

Advice of GTS: 24 billion is sufficient from the aspect of security of supply

National grid operator GTS is of the view that an annual production level of 24 billion cubic metres guarantees security of supply of low calorific for the Netherlands as well as gas for gas consumers in neighbouring countries who are dependent on low calorific gas from the Netherlands in an average year. In the event of a colder winter, an additional volume of natural gas of maximum 6 billion cubic metres can be produced on top of this from the Groningen field. This additional production will only be permitted to the extent that the temperatures in that year fall below those of the average year. The chance that full use need be made of this extra volume is small.

Advice of Mijnraad: extraction decree to apply for a period of five years

In line with the advice of the Mijnraad, the Cabinet has decided that the assent will apply for a period of five years. This period enables a proper measurement of the effects of limiting the extraction to 24 billion, however an evaluation moment after two years will be built in, to allow consideration of the question whether developments such as updated knowledge, justify an adjustment of the production level.

This five-year period means that there should be a new natural gas extraction decree before 1 October 2021. Given the painstaking process required to produce a new assent, including seeking advice from local governments on the extraction plan, the Cabinet requests NAM to submit a new extraction plan in four years’ time.

Tackling the earth tremors issue

According to the Cabinet, it remains essential to actively tackle the problems of earth tremors in Groningen. The Cabinet has therefore decided to continue with the full inspection programme of the national coordinator for Groningen (Nationaal Coördinator Groningen - NCG). Once the number of homes and other buildings that actually require strengthening has been established on the basis of this programme, they will be made both tremor-proof and more sustainable.

Participation

Following the advice of the Dutch Safety Board, the Cabinet has improved both the participation of citizens and local governments in decisions concerning natural gas and oil extraction, and the independent supervision of mining activities. Accordingly, over recent weeks the region was given the opportunity to express its views about NAM’s extraction plan. After the Cabinet’s draft decree has been made public, there will be a period of six weeks commencing the beginning of July for everyone to respond by submitting their views on this decision and the supporting documentation. These opinions will be considered in the definitive natural gas exploitation decree that will be drafted before 1 October 2016.