On Tuesday, the Dutch Parliament unanimously voted in favour of an inquiry into gas extraction in the province of Groningen.
Translation by Traci White
The Groninger Internet Courant reports that the inquiry, which is the most powerful instrument at the Tweede Kamer’s disposal, will likely be carried out next year.
The initial motion for an inquiry was submitted by GroenLinks and the Labour Party (PvdA) factions. That motion was tabled and then resubmitted in consultation with the others parties after the text had been revised. Every member ultimately undersigned the motion.
The inquiry means that a committee of MPs will call witnesses and other relevant parties to testify under oath about the gas extraction process in the province. The MPs believe that an inquiry is not only necessary to ensure that no stone is left unturned, but will also hopefully serve to restore faith of the residents of Groningen in politics.
The inquiry will only start once “reinforcement of the most at risk homes has gotten underway”, according to the motion. Two new institutions for overseeing repairs and compensation – the Mining Damage Institute and the Reinforcement Organisation Institute – will also need to be up and running before the inquiry starts in earnest.
DutchNews.nl reports that the last topic to face the scrutiny of a parliamentary inquiry was the failed Fyra high speed train service between the Netherlands and Belgium between 2013 and 2016.
|History of earthquakes in Groningen
When the Slochteren gas field was discovered in 1959, it was not immediately clear just how large the natural gas reserve was. Three kilometers underground lie a 2.8 trillion cubic meter gas field contained by the sandstone above: the reservoir is naturally sealed by the geological development of a layer of salt. Gas extraction operations occurred in Groningen for 20 years without any induced earthquakes, but according to figures from the Dutch meteorological organization KNMI, there have been thousands of earthquakes in the Netherlands since 1986.
Between 1986 and 1990, there were only three recorded quakes, but starting in the ‘90s, they were detected more frequently: there were 4 in 1991, 6 in 1992, and 16 in 1993. Twenty years later, the quakes had become so frequent that there was one earthquake every three days on average: there were 133 confirmed earthquakes in 2013. Of those, 121 occurred in the province of Groningen. That year coincided with the largest amount of extracted gas – 53.9 billion cubic meters – since the quakes became a common occurrence.
Nine quakes have been measured above 3.0 on the Richter scale since 2001. The biggest measured quake so far – 3.6 – occurred in 2012 in Huizinge. The quake on January 8 is the largest quake since then. Starting in 2013, the Dutch government called for the gas production operations to pump the brakes in an effort to prevent more earthquakes. The government has capped the operations at the Groningen gas field to 24 billion cubic meters per year through 2021.