Gas production near Groningen: The exploitation of the field should be largely stopped this year due to the risk of earthquakes
Photo: Cris Toala Olivares / Getty Images
According to SPIEGEL information, Germany's utilities will probably have to order 1.1 billion cubic meters more gas from the Netherlands this year than planned during the energy crisis.
As can be seen in a letter from the outgoing Dutch Economics Minister Stef Blok to the parliament in The Hague, German customers have reported a significantly higher demand for gas from the Groningen field than expected for the 2021/22 financial year.
Blok has complained to his German counterpart Robert Habeck (Greens) about this - after all, earthquakes occur time and again due to the gas production in the huge Groningen deposit.
Blok's letter shows how badly Germany needs natural gas.
Concerns about a possible gas shortage this winter caused prices on the gas and electricity markets to soar to historic highs before Christmas.
And the traffic light coalition will need fossil fuel as a bridge energy carrier for years to come for their plans to convert Germany to a climate-neutral society.
The Dutch government originally wanted to largely stop the exploitation of the Groningen field this year: because of hundreds of, mostly smaller, quakes with a maximum strength of 3.4 on the Richter scale.
In September 2021, it announced that it would extract 3.9 billion cubic meters in the 2021/22 financial year.
Now it should be almost twice as much - according to Blok, also because of the high demand from Germany for the Groningen gas.
"The forecast for German demand [...] has been revised upwards by 1.1 billion standard cubic meters for the current gas year," the minister explains to parliament in his letter of January 6th.
The demand of German customers for low-calorific gas from Groningen is higher than planned, since "energy saving measures have a smaller effect than expected".
In addition, production in Germany is lower than originally expected and the German storage facilities are less full than usual.
According to SPIEGEL information, the yield of domestic deposits in the Lower Saxony Wadden Sea is said to have decreased even further in recent months.
For decades, Germany has been one of the most important customers for the low-calorie Groningen gas.
This so-called L-gas has a slightly lower methane content than conventional H-gas;
According to the Federal Network Agency, around a quarter of German household customers are supplied with L-gas.
Millions of households in western and northern Germany are to be converted to H-gas, now that Groningen is supposed to stop production.
But there is a problem.
Ministry sees security of supply "still guaranteed"
"I wrote a letter to my German counterpart about this during the Christmas break," says Blok's letter to the Chamber of Deputies in The Hague.
»In it I stated [...] that I am seriously worried about this development.
I have expressly asked my counterpart to check what measures Germany can take to limit the effects of the expected higher gas consumption to a minimum. "
As the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs confirmed on request, Blok contacted Habeck in writing on December 27th.
The minister is leaving office this Monday as a new government is sworn in in the Netherlands.
Habeck's house refused to comment on the Dutchman's letter to SPIEGEL.
"I can neither confirm nor deny any inquiries from the Dutch minister to the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection," wrote a Habeck spokeswoman.
The security of supply is "still guaranteed".
Germany consumes around 89 billion cubic meters of fossil natural gas every year.