Shell continued to extract gas despite Huizinge earthquake

After the huge earthquake that occurred near Huizinge in 2012, the Dutch Petroleum Company (NAM) did not seriously consider reducing the extraction of Groningen gas because, according to the company, it would not reduce the risk of such major quakes. This is what former Shell CEO Pieter Dekker told the parliamentary inquiry committee.

He was responsible for the joint ventures Gasterra (formerly Gasunie) and NAM at Shell from 1997 to 2016.

Dekker termed the magnitude 3.6 earthquake in Huizinge a “game-changer.” Prior to that, experts believed that gas extraction could only cause minor earthquakes with a negligible risk of injury. “But all of a sudden, we realized that it could have far-reaching consequences,” he explained.

Shortly thereafter, the State Supervision of Mines (SodM) advised that the gas tap be opened less frequently for safety purposes. Employees of Shell determined that this decrease in output could be compensated with alternative sources. But the NAM and Gasterra decided otherwise, in part based on the advice of KNMI seismologists.

According to the NAM, the question was whether less gas extraction would result in weaker earthquakes. “It would reduce the frequency of earthquakes at most. Less production did not aid in resolving the issue. We at Shell adopted the NAM’s conclusion “said Dekker.

According to him, this did not occur because of gas extraction profits. It was about finding solutions to our problems.

‘Unfortunate, but logical’

Kamp, the former Minister of Economic Affairs, also did not intervene. The gas tap was then further opened. In 2013, over 50 billion cubic meters of gas were extracted from the Groningen field, a significant increase from previous years.

“I realize it’s unfortunate that it came out so high,” said Dekker. “However, this is consistent with the reasoning behind extraction decisions at the time.” He explained that the extraction was still well below the agreed-upon long-term ceiling, and that Gasterra was tasked with marketing Groningen gas as efficiently as possible.

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