NAM Welcomes Final Report on Wadden Sea Exploration

The Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij BV (NAM) welcomed the final report of the Wadden Sea Advisory Board ("Commission Meijer"). The Board advises the Dutch government to permit gas production and further exploration from beneath the Wadden Sea under certain conditions and to make this activity an integral part of future Wadden Sea policy.

The Advisory Board, chaired by W. Meijer, states that there are robust economic reasons to start producing Wadden Sea gas. The Board also states that there is sufficient scientific data available to conclude that for ecological reasons gas production cannot be excluded any longer.

In 1999 the then Dutch government decided to refrain from permitting gas production from the Wadden Sea because of remaining uncertainties around subsidence effects. New studies that have been conducted since, again demonstrate that gas production from existing land locations Lauwersoog and Moddergat can be conducted in an environmentally responsible manner without negative effects.

On January 15, 2004 this was confirmed by a special meeting of scientists in the Frisian Academy in Leeuwarden. Wadden specialists concluded that in terms of effect on the ecosystem exploration and production of natural gas ranks very low among other human activities – less so than tourism.

The Advisory Board recommends the commencement of gas production under controlled circumstances. The Board has developed a general concept stressing that the natural buoyancy of the Wadden Sea is not to be exceeded and the ecosystem not to be affected.

For the production of natural gas this means a maximum level of subsidence will be defined. The accretion of land due to the dynamical system of the Wadden Sea must be able to keep up with the subsidence caused by gas production and other processes (such as sea level rise, natural subsidence, infrastructure projects) in order to have net zero effect. At the same time a monitoring system will be established to ensure the maximum level is not exceeded. In case of significant changes, the speed of production will be adjusted.

Commenting on the advice, NAM director Roelof Platenkamp said NAM fully supports this approach. "The Advisory Board has developed a new way of thinking. In an innovative way ecology and economy go hand-in-hand, but under defined conditions, which safeguard the natural environment. I consider this as a win-win situation for everybody: This is good for the Wadden Sea, the Dutch society, the region and for our company."

Platenkamp characterises the Advisory Boards conclusion as a breakthrough. "Allowing access to Wadden gas is a vital enforcement of the Dutch Government's small fields policy as well as for the security of gas supply. The Wadden Sea gas is of great importance for keeping up small fields production, and therefore for the unique energy system in our country, comprising the Groningen field, small fields and the underground gas storages."

In the mid-nineties NAM discovered Wadden Sea gas volumes (up to some 40 billion cubic meters) when drilling exploration wells from the land locations Lauwersoog and Moddergat. Production can be done from these already existing locations. No additional drilling is needed and the produced gas will be transported via a new pipeline, to the existing gas treatment plant near Anjum.

The Advisory Board also determined that as-yet undiscovered volumes can be explored for in the future. Based on seismic surveys additional reserves of 30 to 130 bcm may be present.

Platenkamp: "Exploration of these reserves will require wells to be drilled, and these will each need specific plans with normal consultation procedures. NAM has committed itself not to undertake these temporary activities from installations in the Wadden Sea itself, as these will be conducted from land or offshore locations outside the nature area."

"The Advisory Board has made an in depth study of a broad scope of current Wadden Sea issues, and made an integral judgment on these issues. I am optimistic that the government will submit a positive proposition and await a constructive dialogue in Parliament," Platenkamp concluded.