AMSTERDAM, Feb 15 (Reuters) - The Netherlands will remain a heavy user of natural gas for years to come, despite big production cuts at its Groningen field, gas trading company GasTerra said on Friday.
The Dutch have been one of the major gas suppliers in Europe for decades, exploiting what once was Europe’s largest gas field in the northern region of Groningen.
But the Dutch government last year said it would end production at Groningen by 2030 after a string of earthquakes directly related to gas extraction damaged thousands of houses and buildings.
The Dutch still rely on natural gas for about 40 percent of their total energy needs and are not expected to end their gas dependency soon.
“The use of gas-fired power stations may even increase in the next decade in order to secure electricity supplies,” GasTerra Chief Executive Annie Krist said in the company’s annual report published on Friday.
“In the years to come the Netherlands will still have to produce and import several billion cubic metres of natural gas.”
Most of the gas will come from abroad, GasTerra said, as the Groningen production cuts turned the Netherlands into a net importer of gas for the first time since the 1950’s two years ago.
Imported gas covered almost 55 percent of the total Dutch gas need in 2017, Statistics Netherlands said last year.
The growing demand for foreign gas has so far been mainly met by Norway, with its exports to the Netherlands up by a third in 2017.
GasTerra is the sole buyer of Groningen gas, which is extracted by a Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil joint venture. The company also trades gas in the Netherlands and beyond from smaller Dutch fields and from Norway and Russia.
Groningen output has already been cut by 60 percent since its 2013 peak of 53.8 billion cubic metres (bcm) per year, and dropped by a fifth in the most recent year, to 20.1 bcm.
Extraction is set to fall to 15.9 bcm in the year through October 2020, the government said earlier this month.
Reporting by Bart Meijer. Editing by Jane Merriman