Groningen gas extraction cuts could happen faster, Minister says

Milieudefensie and Groningen residents dump fracking earthquake rubble in front of the Ministry of Economic Affairs in The Hague, 26 Oct 2017
Milieudefensie and Groningen residents dump fracking earthquake rubble in front of the Ministry of Economic Affairs in The Hague, 26 Oct 2017Photo: @milieudefensie / Twitter

Minister Eric Wiebes of Economic Affairs thinks that gas extraction in Groningen could be reduced to below 12 billion cubic meters by 2020, he wrote in a letter to parliament. Though he added that he can not guarantee this as the effect of a number of planned measures is not yet certain, RTL Nieuws reports.

Wiebes is explaining his policy on reducing gas production in the earthquake stricken province in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, on Thursday. Early this year the state supervision on mines SoDM called on the government to reduce gas extraction to 12 billion cubic meters per year as quickly as possible, following  a strong earthquake in Zeerijp. The government eventually decided to reduce gas extraction in the province to zero by around 2030. 

In his letter to parliament, Wiebes summed up the progress of his plans. He wants to purchase extra nitrogen, so that gas from abroad can be made suitable for use in the Netherlands. This could lead to a reduction in gas extraction of between 1 billion and 1.5 billion cubic meters from October 2020. He also sees opportunities to reduce Groningen gas exports. In Cologne, for example, a power plant was converted so it no longer needs gas from the Netherlands. The Minister is still investigating how much gas savings this will mean, but he expects it to be 0.7 billion cubic meters annually at most.

The construction of a new nitrogen plant in Zuiderbroek is underway. Once this plant is operational, expected early 2022, gas production in Groningen could drop by another 7 billion cubic meters, Wiebes expects.

Last week the residents of 1,588 homes in the province were told that the reinforcement of their homes, to make them more resistant to earthquakes, was postponed, according to These residents initially would have gotten clarity on what's happening in April, but now they've been told to wait until July 1st at the latest. Wiebes first wants to wait for new advice before starting with reinforcements. According to him, the situation has changed now that gas extraction in the province is being reduced.

This postponement resulted in Hans Alders resigning as the National Coordinator for Groningen. On Wednesday he explained his decision to resign in the Tweede Kamer. Alders faced criticism from the coalition parties, according to But he feels he had no other choice. "Many of the people we are talking about have made agreements with me as a representative of the public case. If these agreements are not met, my integrity is at stake. For me that is one step too far", he told the Kamer.

The postponement also prompted Mayor Albert Rodenboog of Loppersum to send an angry letter to the Kamer, in which he accused Wiebes of completely ignoring the safety of the residents of his municipality.  "This once again makes it clear that the safety of the inhabitants is completely subordinate to other interests and that uncertainty about necessity and the degree of approach is presented as a burden on the residents", he wrote, according to RTL. 

Roodenboog worries that postponement will lead to cancelation. He urged the Kamer to, instead of postponing the reinforcements, speed them up. He called the course of events a "governmental failure of un-Dutch proportions".