The Netherlands became a net importer of gas for the first time in 2017, according to the national statistics Office CBS on Thursday.
The increase in imports came as a result of reduced domestic production, due in large part to earthquake-related problems in the northern province of Groningen, which caused a drop in the volume of natural gas extraction in the region, the CBS said.
Groningen, which is home to a giant gas field, was struck by a series of strong earthquakes last year, triggered by natural gas drilling. The quakes not only left thousands of houses and buildings damaged, but also led to displacements, and protests against the decades-long practice.
In 2017, natural gas extraction decreased by more than 200 petajoules, about 13 percent, marking the fourth consecutive year of decline, the CBS said.
Noting that the decreasing extraction was mainly compensated by imports, the report said, from 2012, natural gas imports continued to increase every year, and in 2017, more gas was imported than was extracted from Dutch soil for the first time.
Last year’s imports came for the most part from Norway, rising by 185 petajoules (5.26 billion cubic meters - bcm) to 743 petajoules (21.13 bcm), according to the report.
Imports from the United Kingdom were also up by 2.22 bcm to 7.19 bcm while imports from German border crossings, including natural gas from Russia, fell by 3.3 bcm to 9.61 bcm.
The CBS pointed out that traditionally the Netherlands exports more natural gas than it imports, and between 2000 and 2013, exports were more than twice as much as imports.
However, this ratio started to fall after 2013, and last year, the export volume of natural gas was only 3 percent higher than imports.
Gas production will continue to fall further until production is brought to a complete halt in 2030, the Dutch government announced in March.
By Hale Turkes