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Groningen earthquakes rattle Shell AGM

Questions were raised at the Shell AGM on Tuesday about the earthquakes that occurred last weekend in the Groningen region and about the delays in NAM compensation payments arising from past earthquake damage to Groningen residences. Ben van Beurden apologised for the delays. The following day, a “major” earthquake occurred. See the FD article below. NAM is the Shell/Exxon Joint Venture company responsible for the earthquake blighted Groningen Gas Field and consequential potential bill for untold billions to deal with damaged residences.

Printed below is an English translation of an article published 22 May 2019 by the Dutch FT, Financieele Dagblad.

Wiebes finds one word important in Groningen earthquakes: pace

From our editor: Last update: 10 pm: May 22, 2019

Minister Wiebes of Economic Affairs and Climate sympathizes with the people of Groningen, who are ‘affected again by new damage and are concerned about their safety.’ That is what the VVD minister said on Wednesday during a – previously planned – general consultation on Groningen gas extraction.

“One thing is now important on all fronts: more speed, more pace,” says Wiebes. The minister emphasized in a statement before the start of the debate that the reduction of gas extraction, which reduces the quakes, is ahead of schedule. “But we are looking for more ways to get the extraction down faster.” Opposition politicians are critical. Henk Nijboer (PvdA) states that Wiebes has said ‘nothing new’ and Sandra Beckerman (SP) wants a debate with Prime Minister Rutte to be held.

It is raining reports on Wednesday at the damage counter in Groningen after the major earthquake that struck the region shortly before six o’clock. “It is clearly busier than normal,” reports the Temporary Committee on Mining Damage Groningen. At least 234 reports have already been made, both by telephone and via the website Seven cases concern potentially acute situations. They are examined within two days.

To be able to process all reports, the organization has been scaled up immediately. Normally there are ten employees on the telephone, this morning 25 people were mobilized for this. In the first hour and a half, some thirty phone calls came in, in addition to ninety damage notifications via e-mail. Normally thirty online notifications come in every day.

If the number of visitors increases today, an additional call center will be deployed.

3.4 on the Richter scale

Groningen was startled early this morning by a relatively severe earthquake. According to the KNMI, this is a quake with a magnitude of 3.4 on the Richter scale. This is one of the most severe earthquakes in the area to date.

The epicentre was near Westerwijtwerd, a village in the municipality of Loppersum. According to the KNMI, the quake at a depth of three kilometres could be felt as far as the city of Groningen, twelve kilometres to the south, and Appingedam, fourteen kilometres to the west.

Six earthquakes

This year, six earthquakes have occurred in the vicinity of the Groningen gas field with a force higher than 1.5 on the Richter scale, according to the KNMI. Throughout 2018 there were fifteen. In 2012, the worst earthquake occurred at Huizinge in the area. Then it was an earthquake with a force of 3.6.

At the moment there is a general consultation in the Lower House with Minister Eric Wiebes (Economic Affairs and Climate) about mining in Groningen. Yesterday, the minister announced that the claims settlement for residents in the region will be further accelerated.

To wait long

This is necessary because victims have to wait too long for settlement. “Together with the Temporary Committee on Mining Damage Groningen (TCMG), I have unfortunately found that, despite all the measures, the remaining working stock of the TCMG is not shrinking fast enough,” Wiebes said in his letter to the Chamber.

The Commission has so far received 23,250 damage reports, of which more than 8,000 were handled.

Eliminate reservoir

The TCMG has introduced additional measures to eliminate the reservoir. This simplifies the arrangement for handling relatively small claims. Residents with a claim of up to € 10,000 can hire a certified contractor to take the damage and have it repaired immediately. In that case, no separate experts need be involved.

The Commission needs the experts in particular for the complex dossiers. This includes damage to monuments, agricultural businesses and problem cases in small and medium-sized businesses. More experts will be called for this in the coming period.


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