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Dutch minister proposes faster Groningen output cuts

by Erika Green

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The Netherland’s Groningen gas field, once the largest onshore gas field in Europe, will produce less than 12 billion cubic meters per year (Bcm/y) by October 2020, the country’s economic affairs minister said Thursday.

Eric Wiebes said in a letter to parliament the purchase of nitrogen to mixed with imported gas could lead to a reduction in gas extraction of between 1-1.5 Bcm beginning in October 2020.

Construction of a new nitrogen plant in Zuiderbroek is underway. Once this plant is operational, around early 2022, gas production in Groningen could drop by another 7 Bcm, Wiebes said.

A reduction of gas exports from Groningen would further enable lower production, bringing forward the target of 12 Bcm/y by two years, Kallanish Energy reports.

Following a series of earthquakes and seismic activity in the region due to gas extraction, the government has placed a cap on production of 21.6 Bcm this current gas year. From October, when the next gas year starts, a new cap will be effective. The previous plan was to shut the field by 2030.

Wiebes said a draft plan for the next gas year will be published by the end of August.

Groningen is operated by NAM – a 50-50 joint venture between Shell and ExxonMobil. The companies are said to be considering compensation claims for an early shutdown of operations.

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