Gasunie wants to be a good neighbor and is seizing Open Energy Day with both hands

Gasunie seized Open Energy Day on Saturday with both hands to show the neighbors what is happening at Energiebuffer Zuidwending.

Gerard van Pijkeren lives in Middelstum, in the middle of the earthquake zone. Not that this was immediately the recommendation to make him director of EnergyStock Zuidwending, a subsidiary of Gasunie. But it does come in handy. He knows what mining activities do to people in the area.

Van Pijkeren shows us around the location during the open day. After only 100 meters a gentleman stops him. “Can I speak to you for a moment, Gerard?” Yes, that will be possible soon. “That happens more often,” says Van Pijkeren. “People just stop you on the street to ask something.”

Sum of activities

He continues: “What we do may not have that big of an effect, but it is the sum of activities in the soil that people are concerned about. For example, you also have salt extraction here and the Annerveen gas field is not far from here. It still leads to land subsidence.”

“You may also have solar panels on your roof,” Van Pijkeren begins his explanation of the reason for gas storage. “If clouds cover the sun, you immediately get less power and the gas-fired power stations immediately have to supply more. We ensure that extra gas is immediately available.”

This is therefore a significant difference with the gas storage in a gas field near Langelo, which mainly serves to have sufficient supplies during cold winters. “We use salt caverns for this, spaces in the ground that are created during salt extraction. They are easily accessible and you can quickly get gas out of them.”

It all sounds simple, but it requires quite a bit of machinery and equipment to arrange all this. For example, there are large compressors on site that pump the gas into the caverns. There is often some water in these cavities, so the gas must be dried before it can enter the net.

Gas pilots

From Groningen, ‘gas pilots’ control the buffer at Zuidwending. They maintain the gas supply from a large control room. Yet there is also a control room at Zuidwending. “We can use that for maintenance or a breakdown,” Van Pijkeren explains. “We then disconnect the part from the control from Groningen and can arrange the matter on the spot.” Ten to fifteen people are working on the site every day on maintenance and the like.

Hydrogen is another energy carrier on the rise, which is why there are plans to build a large hydrogen factory near the gas buffer. This gas can also be stored there. The gas buffer will therefore be used more intensively, which is why local residents are anxious.

“The government is busy arranging permits through the government coordination scheme, which they also applied to the wind turbines in East Groningen and Drenthe,” says Van Pijkeren. “The Hague is then far from the local population,” he sighs. “That is why we do our utmost to interact well with the people in our area. We would like to show you what you can do with hydrogen.”


For example, there is already a small catalyst and a hydrogen pumping station on the site. On the occasion of the open day, several hydrogen cars will also be on display. An impressive field of solar panels provides green energy for the catalysts.

Biogas is also emerging as an alternative to natural gas and it can also be stored here. There are plenty of potential suppliers of raw materials in the area: farmers with manure, Avebe, Suikerunie in Groningen. “Yet things are not going well with biogas,” says Van Pijkeren. “It is a different market than solar and wind. These are available, but you have to buy manure, for example. Prices can vary, which makes it more difficult.”

After the tour, on the way to the parking lot, we meet a father and son from Westerlee. Son beams with pride because his father gave him a personal tour. Father works in this sector himself and is therefore cautious about giving his opinion publicly. “Well, it is very important that these kinds of facilities are there,” he says diplomatically. “But I also understand that people in the neighborhood are bothered by it. In any case, I think that Gasunie does everything it can to communicate well with the environment.”

My son is taking his final VMBO-T exams this school year. Does he want to work in a company like this, just like his father? “I definitely want to do a technical course.” So what an open day is not good for.