Earth­quake fear ends Dutch gas boom

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Holiday -

ZEERIJP, Nether­lands — The Dutch are proud of the way they have cre­ated a coun­try by fight­ing back the ocean — but when they started mak­ing their own earth­quakes, it proved a step too far.

The tiny vil­lage of Zeerijp in the north­ern Nether­lands looks or­di­nary on the sur­face, yet closer in­spec­tion re­veals cracks in homes, schools and his­toric build­ings.

A se­ries of quakes caused by ex­trac­tions at Europe’s big­gest gas field in Gronin­gen prov­ince cul­mi­nated in a mag­ni­tude 3.4 tremor in Jan­uary, the big­gest for six years.

“Sud­denly, I heard two huge noises, one after the other. Then it all be­gan to shake,” said farmer Bert-Jan Huiz­ing, 50, de­scrib­ing how he was work­ing with his fork­lift truck when the tremor struck.

Fac­ing a wave of pub­lic anger over the threat to life and limb, the Dutch govern­ment an­nounced that all gas ex­trac­tion from Gronin­gen will end by 2030.

It was a ma­jor blow to a project that has ben­e­fit­ted from bil­lions of eu­ros in state fund­ing thanks to gas ex­port con­tracts, par­tic­u­larly with France and Ger­many.

The earth­quakes are said to re­sult from huge air pock­ets left un­der­ground by ex­trac­tion.

A large fence sur­rounds the Leer­mens ex­trac­tion site near Zeerijp, where ac­tiv­ity has now stopped, but lo­cals can still feel the earth move some­times.

Hun­dreds of protesters re­cently spent the night in tents at the site to protest against the ex­trac­tions.

De­spite the an­nounce­ment that the field will shut, more than 20 bil­lion cu­bic me­ters of gas were still ex­tracted this year. At its height in 2013, the fig­ure was 53.9 bil­lion cu­bic me­tres.

“2030 is still a long way off and we could have more earth­quakes,” Huiz­ing said.

The potato farmer, a father of four chil­dren, was work­ing on the soil where his wife’s an­ces­tors have toiled for 250 years.

Huiz­ing, also a coun­cilor and pres­i­dent of the lo­cal soc­cer club, is lead­ing a project for a new vil­lage school after ex­perts deemed the old build­ing un­safe. Pre­fab build­ings have been set up to tem­po­rar­ily house peo­ple whose roofs threat­ened to fall in when­ever the next quake struck.

But not ev­ery­thing can be saved. The only bar in the vil­lage, closed up and ringed by

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