Groningen gas production will completely stop on October 1, Dutch Cabinet says
The gas tap in Groningen will close completely on October 1, the Dutch Cabinet affirmed on Friday. All production facilities will be stopped, including those operations which are currently running at a bare minimum level in case of emergencies.
"The government also wants to stipulate in law that all extraction locations will be demolished from October 2024 so that restarting them is no longer possible," the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate said in a statement. The decision was finalized at the Council of Ministers meeting on Friday, when government officials had their final opportunity to voice concerns regarding the Cabinet's draft decision to stop gas production, which was revealed in June.
Until the facilities are demolished, the natural gas field will still be accessible if an urgent need arises. "Only in special situations, such as extreme cold, will it be possible to extract gas temporarily and to a limited extent this coming winter," the ministry wrote. "In these special situations, this concerns the temporary start-up of one or more production locations to pilot light level when very severe cold is predicted."
The examples given include consecutive days where the temperature falls below -6.5 degrees Celsius, combined with another emergency, like the failure of a gas storage facility.
The region around the gas mines has been plagued by earthquakes for decades as the result of the gas extraction operation. Just since July, residents have had to contend with 11 different earthquakes, according to data from the Dutch meteorological institute, KNMI. While the strongest of these seems low at magnitude 2.0, they are often very shallow with epicenters at just three kilometers below the surface.
This can make them feel stronger and cause more damage than a natural earthquake of the same magnitude at a greater depth. Additionally, the earthquakes originate in sandstone, which is under a thick layer of Zechstein salt, "which has been shown to exert a pronounced influence on the propagation of seismic waves," an article published in the Journal of Seismology noted last year.
Despite the impact to residents for more than six decades, the extraction of gas was allowed to continue. In the end, it generated the equivalent of 363.7 billion euros as of September 2022, when adjusted for inflation.
"Finally, gas extraction in Groningen will stop. A relief for many, even though the earthquakes will unfortunately continue for years to come. The demolition of all extraction sites from October next year is a historic moment that we are going to mark. Because we as a country must reflect on such an important moment," said Hans Vijlbrief, the state secretary for mining issues.
It was the third Cabinet of Mark Rutte that actually made the decision in 2018 to begin the gradual process of stopping the extraction of natural gas in Groningen. However, the amount of gas extracted since Rutte first took office in 2012 was often pushed to the maximum allowable limit, despite the likelihood that the frequency of earthquakes would potentially increase.
Reporting by ANP