Dutch government bans shale till 2020

Dutch flag / The Nethelands
Source: DollarPhotoClub

On Friday the Dutch government introduced a moratorium on shale exploration in the country until the year 2020. The ban was proposed by economic affairs minister Henk Kamp and accepted unanimously by the cabinet.

The government decided to wait for the outcome of a number of studies, initiated in 2013, to assess social effects, environmental consequences, and possible costs and returns of shale gas extraction in the country. The results should be available by the end of this year and the cabinet will then decide whether shale gas can be included as a broad option in the future for the Netherlands. However, determining the amount of potential shale gas and its profitability has proved to be difficult due to absence of test bores.

“No answer can be expected to the question of whether it would make sense to further examine the prospect of extracting shale gas until the end of this year,” said Henk Kamp.

“At that point, I will present a vision of energy policy after 2020, based partly on recent insights relating to sustainable energy, the better utilisation of geothermal energy, and gas extraction in the province of Groningen.”

The Dutch government’s decision means that there will be no exploration for shale for the next five years. It also means that the existing shale gas exploration licenses will not be renewed. Should the studies show that there is a case for exploring shale gas in the Netherlands, the ministers decided that the exploration would be carried out by state-owned operators rather than private firms.

Furthermore, in a statement issued by the government, Henk Kamp assured the public that the decision on shale gas has nothing to do with the situation in Groningen, where gas extraction is being cut back to prevent earthquakes.

‘The decisions we have made about Groningen have no direct relationship with the decision on shale gas,’ the minister said. ‘The decision about Groningen is based on safety considerations.’

The Groningen gas field is a giant natural gas field located near Slochteren in Groningen province in the northeastern part of the Netherlands. Discovered in 1959, it is the largest natural gas field in Europe and the tenth-largest in the world. As of 2009 the Groningen gas field has produced around 1,700 billion cubic meters of gas which represents 60 per cent of the total reserves of the field but the remaining 1,100 billion cubic meters are expected to last for another 50 years.

However, a series of induced earthquakes forced the Dutch government to cut output from gas field and pay those affected by the earthquake compensation of the amount of 1.2 billion Euro, spread over a period of 5 years. The government further announced that the production at the Groningen gas field will be slashed to 13.5 billion cubic meters in the second half of 2015 resulting in total output of 30 billion cubic meters this year, substantially lower than the previous target of 39.4 billion cubic meters.

The developments in Groningen and a strained relationship with The Netherlands’ major energy supplier Russia, forced the country’s government to search for alternative sources of energy.

However, there is little public support for shale in The Netherlands. The portal Dutch News reports that a number of local councils, water boards and even brewing groups like Heineken have come out against the production of shale gas in the Netherlands because of the risk of pollution.

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