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Netherlands officially stops drilling at Groningen's giant gas field

Gas extraction in Slochteren, northern Netherlands, Friday, Jan. 19, 2018.
Gas extraction in Slochteren, northern Netherlands, Friday, Jan. 19, 2018. Copyright Associated Press
Copyright Associated Press
By Euronews with AP
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A symbolic ceremony was held on Friday to mark the end of drilling which has increased the seismic risk in the region since it started in the 1960s.

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The Netherlands has officially stopped drilling at the Europe's largest gas field in Groningen, marking the occasion with a symbolic ceremony on Friday.

The occasion took place at the same spot where the deposit was reportedly discovered in 1959. Since the early 1960s, the field has been a major contributor to the country's economy and it still has huge reserves of gas.

But over the years it has become clear the drilling has caused a spike in seismic activity. The problem became acute in the 2010s. In 2012, Groningen was hit with a 3.6 magnitude earthquake: the strongest in the history of the region.

In 2018, authorities decided to gradually shut off the pumps. Drilling effectively stopped in October 2023, though several wells remained open in case of "severe winter weather" and "due to the uncertain international situation" caused by the Russian full-scale invasion in Ukraine.

Since 1986, around 1600 earthquakes of varying strengths have been recorded, significantly damage to thousands of homes and other buildings. It is not clear whether stopping drilling will be enough to prevent more quakes, as empty cavities remain underground.

Major oil companies Shell and ExxonMobil, who run the Groningen field, are seeking compensation from the Dutch authorities for the vast gas reserves left unextracted.

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