THE HAGUE - Agence France-Presse
An employee walks in Hungarian oil and gas group MOL's main Danube refinery in Szazhalombatta. REUTERS photo
The Groningen natural gas field, the largest in the European Union, is running out of reserves, with an estimated 17 years left before stocks will be depleted, The Netherlands announced on Sept. 16.
“Dutch natural gas is nearly finished,” said Peter Hein van Mulligen, chief economist at the country’s Central Statistics Bureau (CBS).
“Since natural gas was discovered in 1959 in Groningen, we’ve used up some 80 percent of our reserves. If the rate of extraction stays the same, we’ll be out of gas in 17 years from now,” Van Mulligen said in a video, posted on the CBS website.
A drop in natural gas prices and the Dutch government’s decision over the last two years to scale down natural gas extraction in its earthquake-prone northern province, have also led to a substantial decline in profit, the CBS economist said.
In 2013, the government made around 13 billion euros ($14.5 billion) from natural gas, but that dropped to around 5.0 billion euros last year.
The Hague announced in June it was planning to cut the Groningen gas field’s production by another 11.1 percent -- from a current 27 billion cubic metres to 24 billion cubic metres -- over the next five years.
A final decision is expected in October.
The decision to turn down the gas taps “is part of our approach over the last few years to reduce safety risks to Groningen’s residents and buildings,” Economics Minister Henk Kamp said at the time.
However, during an exceptionally cold winter or “if strictly necessary”, gas production could be pushed up, he added.
The cutbacks come after a series of tremors rocked the northern Groningen province as a result of the collapse of empty underground gas pockets, scaring residents and damaging historical buildings in the area.
Although the earthquakes are of a low magnitude, they often happen close to the earth’s surface.
After Norway, the Netherlands by 2014 was western Europe’s second-largest natural gas exporter and income from natural gas constituted 2.6 percent of the country’s total revenue, according to the CBS.
However, by May last year, natural gas imports for the first time overtook exports in the country which is the largest consumer of natural gas within the 34-member Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).