Dutch court halts gas ex­trac­tion in quake-hit town

The China Post - - WORLD BUSINESS -

Con­cerned groups and op­po­si­tion po­lit­i­cal par­ties in the Gronin­gen prov­ince dragged the Dutch gov­ern­ment to court to de­mand a halt to gas ex­trac­tion from the field where pro­duc­tion has hit 50 bil­lion cu­bic me­ters an­nu­ally.

“For the time be­ing, gas may be ex­tracted in and around Lop­per­sum only if ex­trac­tion from other lo­ca­tions is no longer pos­si­ble and if re­quired to en­sure sup­ply se­cu­rity,” said the high­est ad­min­is­tra­tive court in the Nether­lands, the coun­cil of state.

Lop­per­sum has a pop­u­la­tion of around 11,000 and has be­come the epi­cen­ter of earth­quakes blamed on gas ex­trac­tion from five wells in the town.

Many res­i­dents are an­gry and in Fe­bru­ary a com­mis­sion lashed out at the gov­ern­ment and en­ergy com­pa­nies say­ing they put gas pro­duc- tion and earn­ings ahead of peo­ple’s safety.

Judge Thijs Drup­steen on Tues­day how­ever said there was “no rea­son to stop gas ex­trac­tion from the Gronin­gen gas field in full.”

Also, “it’s not dis­puted that gas ex­ploita­tion from the Gronin­gen gas field is es­sen­tial for Dutch en­ergy sup­ply ... and is a large rev­enue source for the Dutch state,” the judge said.

In re­sponse to the rul­ing, Dutch Eco­nomics Min­is­ter Henk Kamp was quoted as say­ing by ANP news agency that the Lop­per­sum gas wells would now be set at the low­est out­put level pos­si­ble to en­sure they re­main op­er­a­ble.

The min­is­ter had al­ready an­nounced in Jan­uary that pro­duc­tion would be slashed in the Gronin­gen gas field by 20 per­cent over three years.

The Nether­lands is Europe’s sec­ond-largest pro­ducer, af­ter Nor­way, and makes an an­nual av­er­age of 13 bil­lion eu­ros (US$13.8 bil­lion) from gas.

The Gronin­gen gas field has been op­er­a­tional since 1963 and is the largest in the Euro­pean Union.

In a move aimed at coun­ter­ing grow­ing lo­cal anger, Dutch Eco­nomics Min­is­ter Henk Kamp said in Jan­uary that the field would have its pro­duc­tion slashed from 42.5 bil­lion cu­bic me­ters in 2014 to a max­i­mum of 39.4 bil­lion cu­bic me­ters this year.

The field pro­duced 50 bil­lion cu­bic me­ters in 2013, and pro­vides the Nether­lands — the world’s 10th-big­gest gas pro­ducer — with two-thirds of its gas.

Tues­day’s ver­dict how­ever is only pre­lim­i­nary with a more in-depth rul­ing based ex­pected in Septem­ber.

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