Finance

More drilling in the Wadden Sea? This is why (and why not)

What will happen in Ternaard?

The gas field above the village of Ternaard is one of about 175 smaller gas fields in the Netherlands. The gas field is located at a depth of about 3.5 kilometers in the middle of the Wadden Sea.

The Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM) wants to drill there and has applied for a permit. They want to pump up a maximum of 7.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas from the land from 2023. For comparison: the natural gas field in Groningen is good for 2740 billion cubic meters. Over 13 times as much.

So tapping into a new gas field. But didn’t we just want to get rid of the gas?

The Netherlands wants to get rid of gas in the coming years. But it will take some time before all houses are ready for that. And so those houses still have to be supplied with gas until then. As a result, our demand for gas will even increase in the coming years.

Can’t we import that gas?

Another option is to import gas from Russia. But you will then be dependent on the Russians for that and Dutch politics does not like that. And in other countries around us they are also seeing a growth in demand for electricity and energy. Because those countries also want to become more sustainable, they will not be able to export much. Moreover, obtaining gas from other countries is more expensive.

Is the Wadden area not a protected area?

The area is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. This means that the Wadden Sea is of exceptional universal value and must be preserved for current and future generations.

The Waddenvereniging is afraid that the drilling plans will be disastrous for plants and animals in the area. An area that is already under pressure due to rising sea levels and all the other consequences of climate change, according to the Wadden Society. “We do not understand it and want to prevent it,” said spokesman Frank Petersen.

He is afraid that drilling for natural gas will cause additional subsidence. If the bottom drops extra and the sea level rises, all pieces of seabed that you see now will no longer be visible at low tide. And it is precisely this seabed that attracts, with all its delicacies, many bird species. And so are bird lovers.

Will protests and petitions help?

Nature organizations and other opponents are therefore afraid that the area will be damaged by drilling and fear, for example, soil subsidence and earthquakes. Several actions have already been taken to stop the plan. However, it seems that the plan is going ahead for the time being.

Although the chamber will be debating gas and salt extraction in the Wadden Sea on 15 September, the ministry has initiated the permit procedure and indicates that the risk of earthquakes and subsidence is limited.

However, the decision can still be appealed until October 7, and several nature organizations are considering going to court to prevent new drilling under the Wadden Sea Region.

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