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Bloomberg: Shell, Exxon Allowed to Expand Wadden Sea Gas Output (Update1)

By Fred Pals and Marcel van de Hoef

Aug. 29 (Bloomberg) — Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Exxon Mobil Corp. will be allowed to expand its natural gas production in a wetlands area in northeast Netherlands, a government court said today, overruling objections from environmental groups.

Shell and Exxon’s Dutch venture, Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij BV, had been awarded permits last year to increase production as it seeks a return on an investment of more than 300 million euros ($400 million) to date. Environmentalists were seeking the revocation of those permits.

The Wadden Sea wetland area’s three newest fields may hold enough gas to supply the four biggest Dutch cities for at least 10 years, according to NAM. The new sites would supplement the aging Slochteren field near the country’s eastern border, Europe’s biggest deposit of the fuel, as well as the three Wadden Sea fields that have been producing gas since the 1980s.

“This is an important decision for the Dutch energy supply and society,” said Marjolein Boer, a spokeswoman for NAM. “It’s a considerable addition.”

Gas production began at one site in February and two other sites will be added in 2008, Boer said. She declined to say how much NAM will invest in the gas fields. All the gas will be earmarked for domestic use.

`Limited’ Impact

In its ruling, the Dutch Council of State said research has shown that the environmental impact from gas production on the area will be “limited.”

“There have been enough investigations into the consequences of the gas production,” the council said today on its Web site. No further appeals of the ruling are possible, according to the statement.

The council, based in The Hague, is the government’s highest advisory body and administrative court.

Wildlife advocates and environmentalists say gas production will harm the 3,800 square-mile (9,800 square-kilometer) expanse of wetland tidal flats off the northern Dutch coast that is home to seals, a transit stop for 10 million migratory birds and a breeding area for 30 avian species.

Bart Vermeulen, the Netherlands-based spokesman for Exxon Mobil, wasn’t available for a comment at his office today. Shell’s press department in The Hague referred to the NAM press office for a comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Fred Pals in Amsterdam at [email protected]

Last Updated: August 29, 2007 06:59 EDT

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