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300 temblors since 1991 at the Groningen gas field.

Quakes Giving Dutch Province ‘A Makeover We Don’t Want’

By Sarah Kent Dow Jones Newswires

GRONINGEN, The Netherlands — Irma de Joode was talking on the phone with her brother when she heard what sounded like rolls of thunder and felt her entire house jump beneath her feet. The Aug. 16, 2012, earthquake was the biggest ever to rock the flat, green plains of this northern Dutch province. The source was Europe’s biggest natural gas field. The earthquake was one of more than 300 temblors since 1991 that Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Exxon Mobil Corp. and the Dutch government acknowledge were caused by their activities at the Groningen gas field.

The quakes have led to nearly 80,000 damage claims by residents here, prompted a court to order a criminal investigation into the Shell-Exxon joint venture, and led to government limits on gas production to which the companies object.

Shell and Exxon’s joint venture, Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij BV, or NAM, has vowed to pay for any earthquake-induced damage. It has settled thousands of compensation claims and poured money into government efforts to reinforce local buildings and stimulate the local economy. Efforts are under way to try and improve the claims process.

 

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