Dutch Government Opens Door for 'Fracking'
The Dutch government, the Dutch mining council and the mining supervisory agency SodM have given Vermilion Energy a provisional licence to use hydraulic fracturing to further develop the Waalwijk North gasfield in the south of the Netherlands.
The province of North Brabant and the municipality of Aalburg have already challenged the provisional decision by the energy minister Eric Wiebes, but the government will have the final decision. The deadline for objections is July 4.
Vermilion Energy wants to use fracking to exploit the remaining natural gas under the villages of Aalburg, Heusden and Waalwijk. Gas from this field has so far been produced by traditional technology.
In its new production plan Vermilion hopes to raise gas production by 'hydraulic stimulation.' Vermilion and Wiebes prefer to use these words instead of the more common term 'fracking.' They consider it to be two different technologies, relating to scale and intensity. Wiebes says fracking is intended for the exploitation of shale gas, while hydraulic stimulation has been applied for several decades in traditional gas fields in the Netherlands, without incident. He intends to allow it only in a limited number of cases, however. He also decided to award no more exploitation permits for new onshore gas fields. Waalwijk 2 is an existing production field.
The mining supervisory agency does not foresee problems with Hydreco Geomec's efforts to discover commercially useful geothermal heat in Tilburg-Geertruidenberg, southwest of the Waalwijk North gas field.
Vermilion hopes to recover at least 61% and at best 76% of the gas, with production ending by 2026. By then, the ground level is expected to be not more than 3 cm lower than it is today. According to the plan, no significant effects concerning the environment, nature or earthquakes are to be expected. Still in the most optimistic scenario, Vermilion should be able to produce another 1.6bn m³ gas, leading to an total volume of 3.6bn m³. The field has been producing since 1991.
Opponents of the plan stress that the fracking permit for Waalwijk 2 is inconsistent with the earlier government decision to wind down and eventually stop natural gas production in Groningen without producing more from onshore gas fields. Another worry is that Wiebes also announced that he would not apply the same generous compensation regulation for damage caused by gas production at Groningen to other areas in the country.