Seismic cuts at the Groningen Field, but production continues...

Dutch Government officials congregated on Thursday 5th January to discuss the future of Groningen field’s production. This is being reviewed due to concern from the local residents. Groningen Field is confined to the surrounding area, which is supposedly being damaged by minor earthquakes and tremors as a result of drilling for gas in the field.

The Groningen field was founded in 1959 and began operating to supply gas to the Netherlands and their European neighbours in 1963. The field is located on a shallow depth shelf which makes it highly vulnerable to seismic activity. Local communities have argued that operation at the field should be reduced or ceased, after millions of Euros worth of damage has been caused to infrastructure. The Groningen field began producing gas on a much larger scale than today, at around 54 bcm capacity, which has been severely reduced and capped to 24 bcm. This cut reflects the opinions of the local population and indicates the recognition of environmental impacts by governing bodies.

Annual reviews of the capacity at which the field functions have been put in place to reduce the amount of seismic activity, though many locals believe there is not enough action being made to stop harm to the environment and to local housing. However the Government has not completely put an end to drilling at the field because there is little evidence to suggest that these activities are related completely to the nearby gas production. Furthermore, the gas supply from the field extends to alternative countries, who may struggle to meet gas demand if it were no longer in operation. Jilles van den Beukel explained that:

Groningen gas could still play a valuable role in North West European energy supply. In the short term it offers a better compromise from a financial, environmental and energy security point of view than alternatives like coal or Russian gas. Earthquake hazards can be managed with a hand-on-the tap strategy – as long as we accept that risks cannot be reduced to zero.

Despite protests, the Dutch Government has not decided to shut down production at the Groningen gas field. Instead, the annual reviews will take place each June to decide whether further reductions to capacity are required.