Netherlands halts extraction from Europe’s biggest gas field

The Netherlands halted extraction from Europe’s biggest gas field on Sunday, which was resulting in earthquakes that have shaken local residents for decades and threaten to persist.

Authorities are keeping 11 extraction wells open at the Groningen gas field for another year, however, in case of a severe winter, before shutting its gates for good against a backdrop of geopolitical tensions.

People living near the site, which opened in the early 1960s, have complained for more than 20 years of being terrorized by quakes directly attributed to drilling operations.

“An enormous number of people in the province are suffering psychological problems due to the extraction of gas,” Jan Wigboldus, president of an association representing local people, told AFP.

Around 2,300 billion cubic meters (81,223 billion cubic feet) of gas have been extracted from the field over the years, according to Shell.

Groningen gas generated some 429 billion euros ($450 billion), adjusted for inflation, between 1963 and 2020, 85 percent of which went into state coffers.

Many houses in the Groningen area have now been renovated or rebuilt to incorporate earthquake-resistant structures.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Friday during a visit to the site that there were tens of thousands of children living in a terrible situation in the region, according to Dutch agency ANP.