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Netherlands sticks to plan to close Groningen gas field by October - FT

(Reuters) - The Netherlands remains convinced of the need to close production at Groningen, once one of Europe's largest gas fields, by October following earthquake risks which made it dangerous to keep operating, the Financial Times (FT) reported on Sunday citing a government official.

Mining Deputy Minister Hans Vijlbrief said he would stick to the previously announced timetable and aimed to shut the earthquake-prone gas field by Oct. 1, with the option of keeping it operational one more year if there was a shortage of gas in Europe after the winter.

Although the Dutch have come under pressure to change course due to the energy crisis triggered by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the government has repeatedly said production could only be resumed as a last resort if gas supplies for Dutch households run out.

Production at Groningen was scaled back sharply over a period of years in the 2010s after the Dutch government and producer NAM, a Shell-Exxon joint venture, realized the earthquakes it caused posed too great a threat to life and property.

"It’s very, very simple: everybody who has some knowledge of earthquake danger tells me that it’s really very dangerous to keep on producing there. I’m quite convinced it’s wise to close it down," Vijlbrief said to the FT.

Netherlands on Friday said that it will stop the search for new onshore oil and gas fields in a drive to reach its climate goals and limit seismic risks.

The Netherlands for decades was one of Europe's main gas suppliers through the Groningen field in the north of the country, until production there was cut to a minimum to limit the seismic risks.

(Reporting by Mrinmay Dey in Bengaluru and Bart Meijer in Amsterdam; Editing by William Mallard and Raju Gopalakrishnan)