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Dutch Quakes Rattle Exxon, Shell — WSJ

Big gas field is causing tremors, exposing energy firms to criminal probe and rising bills

By Sarah Kent Dow Jones Newswires

GRONINGEN, The Netherlands — For decades, the giant Groningen gas field beneath the flat, green farmland in the north of this country counted among the greatest prizes for Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC. Then the earthquakes started.

Shell and Exxon are pushing back through their joint venture, Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij BV or NAM.

NAM said it is considering formally contesting the government’s decision. It also expressed surprise at the Dutch court order to the prosecutor to open a criminal investigation this year…

Groningen’s quakes were first officially linked to gas production in the 1990s, nearly 30 years after work on the field began. Decades of production have caused pressure in the porous ground containing the gas-bearing reservoir to decrease, according to the Shell-Exxon venture and the Dutch government. That increased the stress on natural faults, resulting in the earthquakes, the company and government say.

The tremors have caused widespread damage…

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