Ruling could affect Dutch gas hub ambitions

Dutch suspends Bergermeer gas storage project

A Netherlands court has ordered the suspension of the largest gas storage project in Europe due to fears over earth tremors.

Top Dutch court the Council of State has ruled that the Bergermeer gas storage project must be temporarily suspended to avoid "irreversible consequences".

"There is much resistance against this plan by the government," the council said in its preliminary ruling.

The storage project, along with the soon-to-be-completed liquefied natural gas terminal in Rotterdam, is an important part of the Netherlands' plan to become a European hub for natural gas once it stops exporting gas in 2025.

The Bergermeer gas storage project was intended to store up to 4.1 million cubic metres of gas when completed, and would be operated by Abu Dhabi National Energy Company, the majority owner.

However the project, which the Dutch government had already approved, has faced strong opposition locally due to fears that the change of pressure caused by injecting gas into the depleted gas field - near Alkmaar in the country's northwest - could cause strong earth tremors.

TAQA has asked three independent bodies, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to carry out additional tests.

The three institutes have concluded that the risk of such a tremor is small and that tremors could also occur in the Bergermeer area even without gas storage going ahead, as a result of gas extraction from the site in the past.

Allan Virtanen, TAQA's spokesman in the Netherlands, said the company was disappointed with the court's decision, adding "We are currently evaluating the effects of the outcome."

He said it was too soon to say if and by how much the project would be delayed due to the court's decision.

TAQA, 75 per cent owned by the Abu Dhabi government, has a 60 per cent stake in the €800m Bergermeer project, while Energie Beheer Nederland, a Dutch state-owned gas company, owns the remainder.

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