The locations at Spitsbergen and Scheemderzwaag will be put on “standby” mode, which means that a minimal amount of gas will be extracted to keep the systems running. If necessary, additional gas can be extracted quickly.
Safety concerns and public reaction
The government had previously announced that the Groningen field would be kept in reserve this winter in case of a situation like the current one. The field can be reopened if temperatures drop below -6.5 degrees Celsius.
This week, temperatures are expected to reach -6.6 degrees Celsius. On Wednesday, it is likely to warm up again. “The extraction will therefore be minimal, namely only the extraction on the standby mode at two locations for about two days,” Vijlbrief wrote to parliament.
In the event of sustained cold weather, gas will first come from the Norg storage facility. However, if that fails, the supply security is “not guaranteed” according to Vijlbrief.
The Groninger Bodem Beweging (GBB), an environmental group representing the victims of the earthquakes caused by gas extraction in Groningen, expressed its disappointment with the decision to reopen the gas wells.
“When will the safety of Groningers come first?” asked Merel Jonkheid of the GBB. “This shows that the ministry is opening the standby mode at the slightest sign of danger, while there are absolutely no supply problems. They are letting Groningers down again.”
Last fall, gas extraction in Groningen was reduced to zero, but the field remains open for emergencies. The GBB had filed a lawsuit with the Council of State, together with the Groningen government, to keep the gas taps closed this winter. However, the Council of State rejected the request to suspend the gas extraction decision because the decision to allow a small amount of gas to be extracted in an emergency “does not have a significant impact on safety” in the area.
The Dutch government wants to legislate the end of gas extraction in Groningen. Vijlbrief asked parliament in his letter to “expedite” the treatment of the bill that has been drafted for this purpose. The bill concerns the extraction of gas from the large Groningenveld. Seventeen other small fields in Groningen are still being exploited.