In the northern part of the Netherlands, the Groningen field, the largest gas field in Europe, is located. The Dutch have extracted gas here since the 1960’s, but the field has been the topic of heavy debate for years, since the excessive production has caused several earthquakes, which has led to material damage in the area.
Yesterday morning, the area was struck by the most powerful earthquake in around one and a half year. According to the Dutch meteorological institute, the quake had a magnitude of 3.4 on the Richter scale, and according to Dutch media, there were around 100 reports of damage from the local population during the day. To date, the most powerful earthquake to hit the area had a magnitude of 3.6 on the Richter scale, and happened in 2012. In 2018, 15 earthquakes were measured.
According to a gas expert, which energy news site Montel has talked to, the latest quake could cause the Dutch government to speed up the closure plans for the field, which are already agreed upon. “Everyone is concerned. Although it is too early to evaluate the political implication, I think there will be more pressure to phase out production, the Dutch gas expert Rene Peters said to Montel.
The current production level from the field is around 20 billion cubic meters a year, and even before yesterday’s quake, the Dutch government had agreed to lower output to 12 billion cubic meters in 2021. From then on, the level is set to decrease gradually, before operations are set to cease completely in 2030. As demand for gas from the field is decreasing more than previously expected, it now seems likely, that a quicker phase-out of the field, which remains important for the European gas supply, could be on the way.