Groningen gas field on the back burner in October

  • All wells to remain open for the sake of flexibility

Secretary of State for Mining Hans Vijlbrief today informed the House of Representatives of the Netherlands that the Groningen gas field will be put on the back burner in October this year, as promised. The Cabinet would like to be in a position to close down the Groningen gas field in 2023, as this is the only way to restore safety in Groningen and to reassure residents in the long run. However, the uncertain geopolitical developments have prompted Vijlbrief to refrain from permanently closing down any wells this year. What this means is that the current level of extraction will be approximately 2.8 billion Nm3.

Current gas year

Gas extraction from the Groningen gas field was below the expected level over the period spanning 1 April to the present time. Reasons for this include reduced actual consumption, in part due to the warm weather, and increased usage of existing nitrogen plants. The upshot is that the extraction level at the end of the gas year could end up being below the 4.5 billion Nm3 expected on 1 April 2022. This will make it possible to compensate for the disappointing delay in the construction of the Zuidbroek nitrogen plant and keep the gas extraction at the previously set level of 4.5 billion Nm³. Hence, the delay in Zuidbroek will not adversely affect the filling of gas storage facilities.

Security of supply

The Cabinet is doing its utmost to guarantee security of supply for the coming winter. Minister for Climate and Energy Policy Rob Jetten today announced the initial phase of a gas crisis: the ‘early warning’. Thus triggering the Gas Protection and Recovery Plan and compelling gas firms to share detailed information on gas supplies with the Government on a daily basis. Furthermore, the Cabinet has lifted the output restriction for coal-fired power stations for 2022-2024 with immediate effect. Consequently, coal-fired power stations will be entitled to operate at full capacity again, driving down gas-fired power stations’ need for gas for the purposes of generating electricity.

Secretary of State for Mining Hans Vijlbrief: "We are doing what we can to ensure that there will be sufficient gas this coming winter. For example, we will be using coal-fired power stations to save gas and will refrain from closing any wells in October to maximise flexibility. In view of the geopolitical situation, I think that is prudent. But as I have always said, it is important for us to continue using the Groningen gas field solely as a reserve resource from October onwards. Only in the worst-case scenario, if people’s safety is at risk because we have run out of gas to heat hospitals, cook or produce diesel fuel, for example, will we consider using the Groningen gas field."

The Cabinet’s desire to maximise flexibility means that all wells are to remain open for the time being, which will result in a minimum flow of approximately 2.8 billion Nm³. It will be possible to completely shut down the gas field in October 2023 or 2024, once the geopolitical situation permits this.