This 28 January 2018 Associated Press video says about itself:
Man-made quakes force Dutch to face future without gas
A 3.4-magnitude earthquake in the northern Dutch province of Groningen has rekindled debate about drilling for natural gas in the region.
It’s also forcing the government to confront the possibility of a future without locally produced gas years earlier than expected.
When Nienke Bastiaans fell in love with and bought a 17th century thatched house on the edge of this tiny village in the rural northeastern Netherlands, there was one person who warned about possible earthquakes due to gas extraction.
“Nobody listened to him,” she says.
Now, 20 years later, thousands of homes in Groningen province are facing reinforcement or even in some cases demolition because of a series of small tremors caused by decades of gas extraction.
And the Dutch government is being forced to confront a future without locally produced gas years earlier than expected.
Bastiaans and her British husband Tom Robinson recently had the entire front wall of their home reinforced – paid for by the gas extraction company – and two chimneys replaced because of fears a tremor could send them crashing through the roof.
The work was completed shortly before a shallow 3.4-magnitude earthquake on January 8 directly under their village jolted the region and its nervous residents and rekindled calls on the government to put an end to gas extraction.
It won’t be as easy as just turning off the machinery that dots the flat Groningen landscape. Some 90 percent of Dutch homes use gas and the government also has long-term contracts to sell gas to neighbouring countries.
These long-term contracts are the work of 20th century right-wing Dutch foreign affairs minister and later NATO general secretary Joseph Luns. Luns wanted speedy extraction of Dutch gas for export because else fellow NATO countries might buy Russian gas.
“They call our gas extraction the Dutch disease,” says Jorien de Lege of the Dutch arm of Friends of the Earth.
Energy giants Shell and Esso – now ExxonMobil – set up the Netherlands Petroleum Company, known by its Dutch acronym NAM, in 1947. In 1959, NAM discovered the Groningen gas field, one of the world’s largest, with 2,800 billion cubic meters (98,870 billion cubic feet) of reserves.
Faced with growing unrest in the region affected by earthquakes, the Dutch government has in recent years cut the amount of gas extracted.
In the aftermath of the Zeerijp quake – the most powerful to hit the region in five years – Economic Affairs Minister Eric Wiebes said in a letter to Parliament, “The gas production levels have to come down.”
The repeated quakes – small but close to the earth’s surface – are not just cracking walls and floors in houses built on top of the rich Groningen gas field, they are also fraying nerves of residents never sure when the next tremor will be and when their damage will be repaired.
Prof. Tom Postmes of Groningen University has studied the impact of the quakes on public health and says the effects are serious.
“85,000 people now who have had multiple instances of damage to their home, we are talking about the figures at the end of 2016. And of those 85,000 people we estimate that 10,000 have serious health concerns and we’re talking about a range of things, all stress-related, but it’s not pretty,” he says.
Hans Warink, whose 25-year-old home in the village of Loppersum has undergone repeated repairs, is a case in point.
“There is so much stress and tension. The sadness,” he says. “It is no longer the cracks in the walls; it’s the cracks in my soul.”
Just around the corner from Warink’s house is an empty lot where weakened houses have been demolished.
Those affected still have the feeling their concerns are taking a back seat.
Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:
Municipalities with small gas fields send an urgent letter to the government
Municipalities with small gas fields are afraid of earthquakes because fields may be drilled more quickly, now that gas extraction in Groningen is being reduced …
In an urgent letter to Minister Wiebes of Economic Affairs, they warn that the government should not increase gas extraction abruptly. According to them, earthquakes with a magnitude of 4.0 are possible, heavier than the worst earthquake so far in Groningen.
The letter is an initiative of Bergen aan Zee. It is also signed by Beemster, Nissewaard, Noordoostpolder, Smallingerland, Waalwijk and Westland.
In addition to the Groningen field there is a large number of smaller fields in the Netherlands. Gas is also extracted from dozens of these fields. Regional broadcasters recently reported that gas extraction has recently been increased there. Although Minister Wiebes has not confirmed this, the letter writers are also afraid that this happens.
“According to the minister, gas extraction in these fields would be phased out, but the opposite seems to happen,” says Bergen Alderman Klaas Valkering.
“In our municipality, the gas fields are now being pumped out at an accelerated rate, which can result in earthquakes that are heavier than those in Groningen. That has major consequences for the safety of our residents. Then it will vibrate from Groningen to Zeeland and back again.”
Research by the State Supervision of Mines, according to the municipalities, shows that they can be confronted with severe earthquakes. …
Last year there were six earthquakes at smaller fields, three of which were heavier than 1.5. There were ninety earthquakes in Groningen, 15 of which were heavier than 1.5.