Dutch cabinet to decide on Groningen gas field output

AMSTERDAM Fri Jan 17, 2014 6:01am EST

AMSTERDAM Jan 17 (Reuters) - The Dutch cabinet is meeting to discuss whether to cut production at the huge Groningen gas field, a spokesman for Economics Minister Henk Kamp said on Friday, and a decision may be announced as soon as this afternoon.

The gas field near Slochteren in the north of the country is one of the world's largest, operated by a joint venture between Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil called Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij BV (NAM).

Discovered in 1959, the Groningen gas field produced 53.8 billion cubic meters in 2013 and was expected to continue to pump natural gas for at least another 50 years.

Local media, citing anonymous sources, said the cabinet was considering slashing production to 42.5 billion cubic meters this year and next, representing a cut of 21 percent compared to 2013.

Local residents and some politicians have called for a halt or review of gas extraction in Groningen province following a series of earth tremors, some of which cracked buildings.

The Netherlands earns about 12 billion euros ($16.3 billion) a year from the sale of gas from Groningen, according to the finance ministry.