(Updates with details, background)
AMSTERDAM, Sept 15 The Dutch parliament adopted
a motion on Thursday ordering the government to evaluate every
year whether gas production at the country's Groningen field can
be reduced further.
Output from Groningen, Europe's largest gas field, has
halved over the past two years after the country's Safety Board
said the government was failing to protect citizens from
earthquakes triggered by gas exploitation.
In June, the government capped production at 24 billion
cubic meters (bcm) annually for the coming five years but the
motion adopted Thursday opens the door to further reductions.
The Groningen gas field is operated by NAM, a joint venture
between Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil Corp.
In June, Economics Minister Henk Kamp cited expert advice
that 24 bcm was the minimum that could be produced at Groningen
while still guaranteeing customers at home and abroad would have
enough gas to heat homes in the winter.
But he reversed that judgment on Tuesday, saying in a letter
to parliament that German customers had signalled they would
reduce their dependence on Dutch gas ahead of schedule and find
That raises the possibility gas output from Groningen could
be lowered in the coming years without causing supply problems.
Although Kamp had opposed the motion to impose annual
checks, it passed with the support of opposition parties and the
government's junior coalition member Labour.
(Reporting by Toby Sterling; editing by David Clarke)