Dutch court to hear demands to end Groningen gas output on Jan. 17

FILE PHOTO: Protesters demand an immediate end to gas extraction at the Groningen field as they block a facility of Dutch gas production company NAM, in Farmsum, Netherlands August 28, 2018. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch High Court said on Wednesday it would consider demands on Jan. 17 seeking an immediate end to gas production from the Groningen field, after the government said it would cut output gradually.

The government has capped Groningen production at 19.4 billion cubic meters (bcm) in the year starting October 2018 and said it would reduce output to zero in the coming decade.

The High Court said it had received 26 objections to the plan, ranging from civilians to local and regional authorities, expressing concerns about seismic risks caused by drilling and demanding that production is stopped at once.

Two of the objections would be heard this month and the rest were expected to be dealt with in April, the court said, adding that it would take several weeks to reach a verdict after the Jan. 17 hearing.

The petitioners in the January hearing have demanded an immediate production halt, at least until the court has made a final decision on the production plan.

Analysts say the court was unlikely to grant an immediate halt in output because the Netherlands still depends on Groningen gas for a significant part of its energy supply.

Years of gas extraction have led to a string of minor earthquakes in the Groningen region, damaging thousands of houses and buildings in the northern Dutch province.

The government said last year that production would end completely by 2030, after already being cut by more than 60 percent since its peak in 2013.

Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Edmund Blair