AMSTERDAM Feb 14 The Netherlands will maintain
current output levels at one of the world's largest gas fields
while scientists study whether the operations risk causing more
severe earth tremors than they have already, a minister said.
"If I cut production, then the effect will be felt in the
Netherlands," the minister for economic affairs, Henk Kamp, told
a parliamentary commission on Thursday, referring to the
economic consequences of a reduction in gas output.
Several politicians - including members of the Labour Party
which is part of the coalition government - have called for an
urgent review of gas extraction in Groningen province following
earth tremors in recent weeks of up to 3.2 magnitude, which
caused cracks in some buildings.
The huge gas field near Slochteren in the north of the
country has recoverable gas reserves of around 2.7 trillion
cubic metres and is operated by Nederlandse Aardolie
Maatschappij BV (NAM), which is jointly owned by Royal Dutch
Shell and ExxonMobil.
Kamp told the commission he would wait for the results of
investigations into whether gas production could trigger a more
serious earthquake in Groningen before deciding whether to
restrict it. The results of the studies are expected in
December, he added.
"Waiting for the research doesn't mean we do not care about
safety in Groningen," he said.
A reduction or halt in gas production would affect the state
budget at a time when the Netherlands is struggling to meet the
European Union's budget deficit targets.
The Dutch Meteorological Institute said the tremors occurred
along fractures in the subsurface, and where gas extraction
results in pressure differences along existing fractures in the
Another method of gas exploration, so-called fracking for
shale gas, has been in the spotlight after causing earth tremors