Phasing-out of Groningen gas
Following the earthquake near Zeerijp on 8 January 2018, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate decided on 29 March 2018 to definitively cease the extraction of gas from the Groningen gas field as quickly as possible. By October 2022 at the latest, and if possible earlier, gas extraction must decrease to less than 12 billion m3 annually.
It must then be reduced further until gas extraction from the Groningen gas field finally comes to an end. The bill on “Minimising gas extraction from the Groningen gas field” with more details of this new extraction strategy is currently before the Dutch House of Representatives.
The position of gas in Europe
Both the phasing-out of Groningen gas and the consequences of the energy transition will contribute to a change in the role played by natural gas in the Dutch energy mix. In the short and medium term, natural gas will continue to play a dominant role in the Netherlands. In the longer term, we can expect a decline in the demand for natural gas. Due to the lower production of Groningen gas, Dutch imports of natural gas will increase, and from 2020 onwards, exports of low-calorific gas to Germany, Belgium and France will decrease. These developments will lead to a gradual decline in the demand for natural gas transport capacity in our network. Similar to the situation in the Netherlands, natural gas will continue to play a crucial role in the European energy supply.
We also wish to use our infrastructure to encourage and facilitate the feed-in of sustainable gases, such as hydrogen and green gas. Moreover, we are working on possibilities for heat and underground storage of CO2 (Carbon Capture and Storage, CCS).
Maintenance and control of our network
We are adjusting our maintenance philosophy to match these changing gas flows. We are also performing more corrective than preventive maintenance, while always safeguarding the reliability and safety of our system. This risk-based reassessment of our replacement and maintenance programme means we are investing less in our existing infrastructure, which is generating an economic benefit.
We started to use a new operating system for the gas transport network in early July. This new operating system enables us to accurately track the transport flows, and improves our ability to predict them. The system’s improved functionality also enables us to control other energy flows and further reduce costs.
Zuidbroek nitrogen plant brings the end of gas extraction closer
To help minimise gas production in Groningen and at the same time continue to provide transport security, a series of measures is required, such as the conversion of our network for high-calorific natural gas and an increased use of quality conversion. In april 2018, we have consulted these measures with market parties in an addendum to our Network Development Plan. Furthermore, the switch to renewable gases can contribute to the reduction of gas production from the Groningen gasfield.
We are preparing the construction of a new nitrogen plant at Zuidbroek. When commissioned, this plant will give a boost to quality conversion capacity. Nitrogen plants add nitrogen to high-calorific gas (H-gas) sourced from the Netherlands and other countries, making the gas suitable for domestic use. Following commissioning of the new plant, expected in in the first quarter of 2022, it will be possible to further reduce production from the Groningen gas field by about 7 billion m3 annually.
Gasunie can facilitate the transition from low-calorific to high-calorific gas
A number of industries in the Netherlands, some of them major, use together some 5 billion cubic meters of low-calorific natural gas. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate has urged these companies to reduce their low-calorific gas consumption by increasing their sustainability or by converting to high-calorific gas. We can apply specific network measures to facilitate these companies in the transition to high-calorific gas.
In the realisation the necessary measures, including Gasunie’s task, will be laid down in a legislative framework.