Who would have believed that in ‘Mien Hogelaand’ of the province of Groningen in the Netherlands, they would find one of the world’s largest (10th) natural gas fields. So in 1959 near the village of Slochteren (after 2 unsuccessful tries) they discovered a well at a depth of 9,800 ft some 100 trillion cubic feet of gas, the largest gas field in Europe. Who would have believed it?
Production started in 1963 with around 100 billion cubic metres (3.57 trillion cubic feet) per year during the first first 10 years and gradually pared down to 35 billion cubic feet. So far 60% of the field’s capacity have been extracted with the remaining 39 trillion cubic feet lasting another 50 years it is estimated.
This find has won large volumes of profits for the Dutch Government and has contributed largely to the wealth of its population. It is estimated that revenues from this gas extraction since 1965 are 417 billion Euros and at times produced for the Dutch Mining sector a large share of the Dutch GDP (in 1985 it was 7.9% since then down to 4%) however even with declining extractions the revenue is significant for the Mining industry.
The Groningen gas field is operated by the Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij BV (NAM), a joint venture with Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobile and supplies 50% of natural gas needs for the Netherlands. The other 50% is harvested from wells in the North Sea. At the moment the Dutch extract every 10 days, comparable cubic volumes as large as the size of the ‘IJsselmeer’, a huge lake (area 1,100 km2) in the center of Holland.
As the revenues climbed in 1980 so did the earthquakes. Something was wrong in ‘Pronkje, Stad en Ommelaand’. The strong fertile clay was breaking up in frightening ‘events’ at several places and het ‘volk’ were rudely awakened by shocks and trilling of the earth. Cracks started to appear in structures and houses. Cracks were also now apparent in the euphoria of the win and winners for NAM and the Dutch government. By 1991 seismicity records kept showed a rate of about five (earthquake) events per year. Since 2003, the number of these events and magnitudes started to increase leading in 2012 to the largest ever recorded of 3.6 on the Richter scale causing lots of damage to houses and structures throughout the gas area. There was much damage. Studies confirmed that as the depletion of the gas field continued there appeared to be a close link between induced seismicity and reservoir compaction. In other words, the natural consistency of the ground under the farms and towns of Groningen had been shifted, modified and robbed of their native and consistent expansion abilities causing flows of substances on the move from various pressure areas creating upheavals and underground ‘streams’ grinding underneath the feet of the province’s citizens. And they were not only traumatized by the sudden ‘events’ but were losing their tempers as it seemed that NAM and the government traded accuses off against each other as to who was to blame and who should pay for the damage. Many houses and other structures needed to be shored up and walls re-enforced while the good citizens were losing their homes to being condemned unfit and too dangerous to live in. The ‘huis-vrede’ (home-peace) had been threatened and damaged.
Requests (applications) of remuneration claims for damages were discussed and in the beginning honored and approved although the ‘proper paper for filing’ the claims was a horrific nightmare. Claims boundary eligibility regions were set and reset because who could predict where the next quake would come. As the gas extraction was cut back claims limits were also scaled back accordingly leaving many people (especially since 2012) with being lost in the bureaucracy with many becoming tired of the fight for their rights even though they had no control over the ongoing quakes (these seismicity were called ‘events’). There were a lot of protests (fakkel en kaarsen) and a lot of ‘Blah, Blah, Blah’.
In the village of Overschild, with a population of 500, just east of the City of Groningen, over 80% of the homes will be demolished as they have been condemned to being unsafe to live in. New houses with ‘earthquake resistant foundations’ are now being built. A nightmare for the citizen experiencing the breakdown of their homes as they knew them. Although they seem to be the lucky ones, there are many who having lived in their homes for 40/50 years are giving up hope to ever ‘in their lifetime’ be compensated for their structural damages and losses. There are a registered 26,809 addresses that have noted instances of structural damage. Of these about 10,000 are waiting for a visit by inspectors from the ‘Staatstoezicht op de Mijnen’ government group who have a 7 year window to determine all damages.
Not only are there structural damages but even the teachers at school notice how the tremors are emotionally scarring some of the children who are experiencing these sudden terrifying shocks in their communities. It is affecting their school work and their relational family well-being.
It seems that the ‘Den Hague’ government is staying far away from the good citizens of Groningen. Demonstrations, protests and discussions only leave long pauses of getting ‘nowhere’ in providing an end to the gas extraction. Oh yes, there is a plan (2022, 2025 or maybe 2030) but it gets modified from time to time and yes, the premier Mr. Mark Rutte came to visit Loppersum but that turned out to be just a political token. Many told him to just ‘Oprutte’ a regional slang expression meaning ‘Get Lost!’ What will be next?????
JS November 26, 2021
And then………….on November 16, 2021 this news.
A shock – literally – went through the Groningen village of Garrelsweer last night. How is the damage after this massive earthquake? This is an article from ‘Trouw’ a dutch newspaper. Every day a selection of the best articles from newspapers and magazines appears on NU.nl.
Wim Vreeling was woken up at around a quarter to two last night by loud rumblings in his house. There was a bang, after which he almost rolled out of bed in the dark from the vibrations. Immediately the thoughts of the church steward of the village church in Garrelsweer in Groningen went to the golden weathercock on top of his church. “Imagine another blow like that,” he thought. “I have to have the church tower checked.”
Vreeling is one of the 450 inhabitants of the village of Garrelsweer, where one of the strongest earthquakes – with a magnitude of 3.2 – of the last two years was recorded last night. Residents were awakened in the pitch dark by clattering wardrobes or trembling bedsteads. A few who were still awake, such as the couple Ron Otte and Caroline Marang, were able to see the shock wave. Marang: “The walls and the ceiling danced, as if we were on a boat. The corner where the kitchen is located came up. I don’t know yet whether we have any damage, but I was completely shocked.”
Steward Vreeling too, and that is why he immediately reported his concerns about the church tower, on which the heavy golden weathercock rests on Tuesday morning. The engineers who immediately came to have a look confirmed his fears.
After the quake, which could also be felt (all the way as far as) in the city of Groningen, more than two hundred Groningen residents reported their earthquake damage to the Groningen Mining Damage Institute (IMG) on Tuesday evening. Eight of those reports, including that of Vreeling, indicate that acutely unsafe situations had arisen.
Feeling of insecurity
Because damage is certain. Resident Fenne Feenstra counted three new cracks in her house. She immediately makes it clear that the damage is not only about cracks, but also about the feeling of insecurity. Fearing that her trembling closet would fall on her Tuesday night, she froze. “The feeling that it is not safe here, you learn to ignore it, but on a day like today you are literally shaken awake.” She now tells this to a handful of other residents, who nod in agreement. They sit together at the table in the neighborhood center of Garrelsweer, where mayor Gerard Beukema invited them on Tuesday afternoon to share what happened last night. After all these years, he knows that an earthquake makes a lot of noise among residents. Around him, residents discuss fortification procedures for their homes, complain about communication with aid workers and describe how angry they are. The shock and fear that Feenstra still felt at night quickly turned into anger, she says. “After such a night you open the newspaper and you read that Shell wants to go to England because they do not want to pay dividend tax,” she says with tears in her eyes. “They’re evading their social responsibility, again.”
For more reports also check Wikipedia at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groningen_gas_field and https://www.magnuscmd.com/groningen-the-slow-ending-of-a-giant/
Heading under top-picture: In Loppersum, considered the center of the quake zone, 80 percent of the first 200 homes that underwent government safety checks required demolition. Credit…Julia Gunther for The New York Times
Read more at DutchNews.nl:
picture taken from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groningen_gas_field