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Groningen needs reinforcement: watchdog

Groningen needs reinforcement: watchdog

The repair and reinforcement of Dutch homes damaged by gas-extraction earthquakes in Groningen needed to be speeded up, the state supervisor on mines SoDM told economic minister Eric Wiebes.

RTL Nieuws reported that SoDM found approximately 1,900 homes in the region that, if not reinforced quickly, would no longer meet official safety standards. The distinctly Dutch rules state the risk of someone dying in an earthquake must not be higher than the risk of someone drowning in a flood elsewhere in the Netherlands.

Another 3,100 homes needed urgent attention and 2,100 others needed temporary reinforcement, at least until 2021, the watchdog reported. Declining output at the natural gas field meant only temporary reinforcement was essential, it added.

Because of Wiebes’ decision to significantly reduce and eventually completely stop gas extraction in Groningen, fewer homes would need reinforcement than initially thought, it said.

Wiebes’ decision to cap output by 2020 meant large industrial users from Groningen gas would need to begin to switch.

SodM said the government needed to offer financial incentives to large industrial users in the short term before banning them from extracting Groningen gas completely.

“Reducing demand from large users is critical for reducing seismic risks”, SodM director Theodor Kockelkoren told the media. “We need to give them an incentive to switch and we need to be clear exactly how much time they will get.”

The regulator did not give a target date for when factories should stop using Groningen gas, saying it was a decision for the government.
The SoDM said the risk of earthquakes in Groningen would increase until 2020 if gas extraction remained consistent and then fall as reserves depleted.

Production at Groningen is due to be lower than expected this year as the government works to end production completely by 2030, partly to address seismic risks.

As a first step, the Dutch authorities promised to reduce production to less than 12 billion cubic metres (bcm) in the coming years, as that level would significantly reduce the risks of earthquakes.

Output would have fallen to 19-20 bcm in the year ending in October, the Dutch gas regulator said, below the original cap of 21.6 bcm set for the year and down from 24 bcm last year.

The joint venture between Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil was discovered in 1959 and is the largest land-based natural gas field in Europe and the 10th-largest in the world.

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