Gas imports have exceeded exports each month since May 2015. Since gas extraction was started in the Netherlands in the latter half of the twentieth century, this was the first time that - during period of several months - more natural gas was imported than exported. In fact, with a volume in excess of 3.5 billion m³, natural gas imports reached an all-time high in September. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports that the production ceiling set in the province of Groningen, which took effect in 2014, forced the Netherlands to increase imports from Norway to meet the demand for natural gas.
Until recently, imported gas was predominantly used in power stations and large manufacturing companies, but in recent months, more gas was imported to heat houses and smaller business premises and to replace domestically extracted natural gas. A small part of imports is transported directly to gas storage facilities.
Gas imports are obviously subject to seasonal variation. In winter, more natural gas is exported to neighbouring countries than in months when the need for heating is less urgent. Due to the relatively mild weather conditions and the high natural gas price compared to other energy sources, gas exports have declined marginally in recent years.
Lower production ceiling has more effect than mild winter
In 2013, 53.9 billion m3 of natural gas was extracted from the Groningen reserves. Early 2014, the maximum volume of gas to be extracted that year in the province of Groningen was set at 42.5 billion m3 in order to reduce the risk of earthquakes. Owing to mild weather conditions in the winter of 2014, the demand for natural gas was reduced by approximately 3.1 billion m3 relative to the preceding year. So the lower production ceiling had a greater impact than the mild winter. Lower domestic production was offset by a record import volume of 26.4 billion m3.
The production ceiling for natural gas extraction in Groningen was reduced further for the period 2015-2016, to 27 billion m3 annually. In addition to the gas reserves in Groningen, there are many smaller gas fields, including offshore gas fields within the territory of the Netherlands. Last year, approximately 24 billion m3 of natural gas was extracted from smaller fields. The total volume extracted in the Netherlands in 2014 amounted to 66.6 billion m3.
In a report released today, CBS will provide more detailed information about the effects of natural gas extraction on Dutch economy.