Not safe to extract more gas in Groningen: Mining authority
From a safety point of view, it is "not recommended" to increase gas extraction in Groningen. It is, therefore, "good news" that limited extra production is needed to absorb setbacks this year, the State Supervision of Mines (SodM) said in an advisory report.
"The safety of Groningen residents is currently insufficiently guaranteed," the regulator said. This is also because far too few homes have been reinforced in recent years. Thousands of homes are at risk of collapse in a major earthquake, and that risk increases as more gas is mined.
Gas extraction in Groningen is being phased out precisely because of the earthquake risks, but that process is in danger of being delayed. The main reason is that a nitrogen factory in Zuidbroek, which will make foreign gas suitable for Dutch heating boilers and cooking appliances, is taking longer to complete than planned.
For weeks, Groningen residents feared a doubling of the permitted extraction level this year, from 3.9 to 7.6 billion cubic meters. Last week, however, the Cabinet revealed that gas extraction in the province does not have to be increased by much. Thanks in part to the mild weather of recent weeks, no extra extraction may be needed at all.
The actual extraction required also depends on the Cabinet's decisions regarding using the gas storage facility in Gijpskerk. These decisions will also largely determine when gas extraction from the Groningen field can stop completely.
Grijpskerk is currently used for high-calorific gas. This type of gas is used in industry, among other things. It can be converted into low-calorific or "Groningen" gas by adding nitrogen. The Cabinet wants to eventually use this storage site for low-calorific gas but has yet to decide when.
If Grijpskerk is filled with low-calorific gas from April this year, additional gas extraction will be needed in the coming months. But in the best-case scenario, it will also mean that the Groningen gas field can be completely closed as early as October next year. If the Cabinet waits to convert the storage site until next year, then no extra gas extraction is needed this year. But then the final closure of the Groningen field will be postponed by a year.
The SodM sees no significant differences in the safety risks between the two scenarios and advised State Secretary Hans Vijlbrief of Mining to closely involve the residents of the gas extraction area in the choice. "In this way, account can be taken of what the residents feel has the greatest effect on the perceived uncertainty and safety."
The regulator also noted that the war in Ukraine's impact on the gas market is causing additional uncertainty in Groningen. For example, the Cabinet does not want to make any promises about when the gas tap will be closed permanently. The SodM advised the Cabinet to provide clarity on this as soon as possible.
Reporting by ANP