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Dutch parliament to debate Groningen gas field quota Thursday

Increase font size  Decrease font size Date:2019-09-10   Views:85
The Dutch parliament is expected to debate the government's latest policy on production caps at the giant onshore Groningen field on Thursday next week, a spokesman at Dutch gas grid operator Gasunie Transport Services (GTS) said Friday.

Dutch economy minister Eric Wiebes -- who will have the final say on how much gas can be produced at Groningen -- has been consulting over the summer with the Dutch gas regulator SodM and GTS on the implications of a much lower quota, even as low as 12 Bcm, for the new gas year starting on October 1.
The quota for the current gas year (October 1, 2018-September 30, 2019) is 19.4 Bcm.

"Next Thursday (September 12) there will be a debate in parliament concerning the Groningen production," the GTS spokesman said. "We expect that the minister will send his decision one or two days in advance to parliament," he said.

State-owned GTS has sent its advice to the minister on what level of production from Groningen would be technically feasible for the upcoming gas year. The recommendation will be included in an annex to the letter Wiebes will send to parliament.

In June -- following a major earthquake in May triggered by Groningen gas production -- the Dutch government said it wanted to accelerate the phase-out of the field, proposing a quota of 12.8 Bcm for the gas year starting October 1, 2019.

SodM though has already recommended that the quota be reduced to 12 Bcm for the next gas year.

The originally proposed permit for Gas Year 19 was 15.9 Bcm.

In provisional findings published in July, GTS said the 12.8 Bcm level could be reached through a combination of measures, including:

--increasing the nitrogen utilization rate for converting high-calorific gas (H-gas) to low-calorific gas (L-gas) from 92.5% to 100%;

--using H-gas converted to L-gas at the export point at Oude Statenzijl;

--and filling the Norg storage facility with H-gas converted to L-gas.

These measures combined would bring the required gas from Groningen down from 15.9 Bcm to 12.8 Bcm.

Additionally, as a one-off measure, GTS said 1 Bcm of working gas volume from Norg could be used to supply the market in Gas Year 19, which would enable the required Groningen production to drop below 12 Bcm.

The ministry is under no obligation to heed the advice from GTS or the regulator when settling on a new permit.

In particular, Wiebes will have to take into account safety of residents of the Groningen region who have been plagued by earthquakes caused by gas production for years.

Quotas have been put in place in an attempt to mitigate the risk, which has seen Groningen output cut from a most recent peak of 54 Bcm in 2013.

The economy ministry has said it is working to achieve an accelerated production decline at Groningen with an aim to have output reduced to as low as 4 Bcm/year by 2022.

Separately, GTS has agreed to take under its ownership the extra high-pressure networks in the southwest of the Netherlands, including the ZEBRA gas pipeline, from 2021.

These networks are currently owned by two distribution network operators, Enexis Netbeheer and Enduris, and the ZEBRA Gasnetwerk company.

The network operators jointly looked into the possibility of GTS taking over these networks and the study showed that a transfer of the extra high-pressure networks "is indeed feasible."

"A transfer of these networks to the national grid can provide a boost for the Dutch gas market and the utilization of the national grid," GTS said.
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