Suspicion among council members about gas extraction in Coevorden

Various political parties in Coevorden have little confidence in the plans of the Dutch Petroleum Company (NAM) to extract the last remnants of natural gas from the fields near Dalen and Oosterhesselen. “Let’s put it this way, I’m quite suspicious.”

This is what citizen committee member Irene Driehuis (Progressief Accord Coevorden, PAC) said. At the end of last year it became clear that there are plans to put these and several other almost empty natural gas fields back into production. NAM wants to extract gas here until 2031. The idea is that natural gas will remain necessary for some time to come, even in the current energy transition.

Opposition parties PAC and PPC are not keen on this and the CDA in Coevorden also has concerns. Driehuis (PAC): “We want to be emphatically clear whether this plan is actually separate from NAM’s quest to inject wastewater from oil extraction into empty natural gas fields. We are not so sure about that.”

She fears the scenario that in seven or eight years there will be a permit application from NAM to “fill up” the then empty fields at Dalen and Oosterhesselen with waste water. “Why didn’t our municipality just say ‘no’ very clearly to this plan?”

Harm Nijmeier (PPC) would also prefer to see the gas tap closed. He says he fears damage – referring to Groningen – and especially social unrest because of this plan.

According to councilor Jeroen Huizing, the current application does not include a plan to inject wastewater. “The words ‘water injection’ and ‘oil extraction’ are not in the application we received. We can now suggest all kinds of things, but the fact is that injection is not an issue in this application.”

Huizing cannot give any guarantees for the future. “Empty gas fields will always come into the picture for all kinds of things in the future. I cannot say anything about how a municipal council of Coevorden will judge this in about ten to fifteen years.”

The councilor is trying to allay the council members’ concerns. “This plan must ensure that this damage does not occur. If it does occur, people will have to be properly compensated for it. We all know that things went wrong in Groningen. We have not had that situation here, and We certainly don’t want that here.” The municipality of Coevorden already informed ‘The Hague’ in November that it felt overwhelmed by these plans.

CDA councilor Eddy Heeling especially wants to know how seriously comments and advice from the municipality in ‘The Hague’ are taken into account in this plan. In that regard, the councilor has confidence in it. “We have given our points of attention. At national level, this gas extraction will be considered. We have clearly indicated to the State Secretary: if people indeed want to continue with this, our points must be taken into account.”

For example, Coevorden asked for a ‘step-by-step plan’ in the event of a possible earthquake and the municipality wants agreements to be made to return part of the proceeds from new natural gas extraction to the extraction area.

The gas fields of Dalen and Oosterhesselen have previously been identified during the search for locations for wastewater. But according to the NAM, that is certainly not the reason to start extracting natural gas there again, NAM reported at the end of November.