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The energy crisis in Europe and the buried treasure of the Netherlands of 1000 billion

The energy crisis in Europe and the buried treasure of the Netherlands of 1000 billion

By Hans von der Brelie

Despite skyrocketing energy prices and a shortage of natural gas supplies in the European Union, the Dutch government has taken the decision to go ahead with shutting down the natural gas wells in the Groningen region. The field is one of the largest in the world, with a value of up to 1,000 billion euros. But for now, it is a treasure that will remain untapped for the foreseeable future.

The reason for the decision was due to seismic shocks caused by gas extraction in the region. About 1,200 earthquakes have been recorded so far, with about 27,000 homes severely damaged and deemed unsafe to live in. That’s according to Jan Wigboldus, president of the Groningen Gas Council, an umbrella group representing civil society organizations in the affected area.

But a growing number of experts are urging the government to reform its decision – and extend gas extraction for at least a few more years. They argue that this could help secure future gas supplies and help lower energy prices.

Michael Mulder, Professor of Energy Market Regulation at the University of Groningen.

“The field can be reopened in the event of an emergency. So when people who live in Germany, Estonia or other countries experience a shortage of gas, this is an emergency. And then the decision on reopening the Groningen gas field will be reconsidered to produce more” .

An alternative to extracting gas at home is to import gas from abroad. The Netherlands has now operated a complementary LNG terminal. Other countries – such as Germany and France – are also creating new infrastructure to import LNG.

About 81,000 jobs are linked to the Dutch greenhouse industry, and half of the companies are facing financial problems due to high gas prices.

An extension of Groningen gas field extraction may ease their situation, but the industry is also taking measures to adapt to the new reality, explains Juliska van der Breggen, Greenhouse Director.

“We had to close one site and 30 percent of our staff goodbye. The problem is high energy prices, and we have to reduce our energy use. And it’s possible to reduce it by 30 percent. Our whole branch we can reduce 900 million cubic meters of gas.”

To put this into perspective, 900 million cubic meters of gas is equivalent to powering three Dutch cities.

But will such actions be enough? The Netherlands has restarted its coal-fired power plants and this is bad news for the climate. Using gas from Groningen may be less harmful to the environment, but for now, at least, it doesn’t seem likely that the government will change its decision.

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