Dutch energy minister: plan to stop gas production at Groningen unchanged -RTL

AMSTERDAM, Feb 25 (Reuters) - The Dutch energy minister on Friday repeated that the government’s intention to wind down production at the Groningen gas field remains unchanged despite high prices and Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Rob Jette was quoted by Dutch broadcaster RTL ahead of a Cabinet meeting as saying that increasing production at Groningen would be “the final, final, final resort in case of a very large conflict that lasts a long time.”

The Dutch have been winding down production at the Groningen field since 2015, when the country’s Safety Board concluded that the earthquakes it triggers are a direct threat to human health. The quakes also cause widespread damage to buildings in the northern Dutch province.

The field could not be shut immediately as millions of homes and businesses in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium are built to use the “low caloric” type of gas produced at Groningen, with some contracts running through 2030.

Production plans for the current year are 7.6 billion cubic meters (BCM), and Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s previous Cabinet had said it was targeting zero production by 2023. His new Cabinet, installed on Jan. 10, is due to announce plans in March.

Ending production by 2023 would require the completion of a facility, still under construction, to convert “high caloric” gas from Norway and Russia for use by Groningen clients.

However the Dutch government has always held out the possibility that the Groningen field could be tapped again in the event of an emergency that threatened the security of supplies.

Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Kirsten Donovan