This is the story of a government failing its citizens.
“But we lived a little more remote, on Denemarken 14 (‘Denmark 14’), and they never asked us if we wanted gas. Because we were not profitable. It simply was too expensive. […] They had divided the country in 'profitable areas', 'unprofitable areas' and even 'highly unprofitable areas'. I guess we were 'highly unprofitable' - we didn't get that gas until 1974.”
(Lady living on top of the gas bubble)
Though gas pipelines to other parts of the country were put through their land, some Groningers had to wait for over 20 years before they were connected.
This is the story of Shell and ExxonMobil in Groningen (the Netherlands). About the exploitation of one of the largest gas fields in the world, the resulting quakes, the people living on top of the field, their homes and historical buildings slowly collapsing, dikes that are in danger, the perpetrators who are in control and refuse to take responsibility, and a money-grabbing government that has entered into a dubious and muddled partnership with multinationals.
There are similarities between this gas extraction and fracking of gas.
[Transcript: Tusschenklappen – Slochteren – Zuiderveen – Noordbroek – Midwolda – Uiterburen – Hoogezand-Sappemeer – Spitsbergen – de Eeker – Eemskanaal]
“I strongly feel that the people from Groningen have been short-changed. It is my duty to fight on behalf of my people as long as I can.”
This man from Groningen, Sijbrand Nijhoff, is like David fighting Goliath (= Shell and Exxon).
Audio-Transcript: “Essentially this is a structural error we as legal experts are now facing, and that is why we take our time to say: Something is wrong here.” (Prof. Dr. Mr. F.T. Oldenhuis, Professor by religion & law)
Groningen is a Dutch province situated in the North of the Netherlands, about 180 km East of Bremen.
The Groningen gas field is a gigantic natural gas field located near Slochteren in Groningen province. Discovered in 1959, it is the largest natural gas field in Europe and the tenth largest in the world.Source: Wikipedia
The Groningen Gas Field makes a lot of money. From the moment you opened this page 0 seconds have passed and approx. 0 has been made with gas from Groningen. This equals roughly one million euro per hour. Almost € 300 billion in total. (Photo: Jeff Williams/ISS)
Audio transcript: “Everything I can pump up to meet the demand, I will pump up.” Ben van Beurden, CEO Royal Dutch Shell Ltd
“1 in 3 residents of the province of Groningen live on the verge of poverty. This means Groningen is No. 1 in poverty in The Netherlands.” (EénVandaag, 2007)
According to Eurostat (a directorate-general of the European Union), Groningen is one of the wealthiest regions within the EU. The province is even richer than Île de France! This is down to gas extraction. What Eurostat conveniently doesn't mention, is that all this wealth is siphoned off the province. Groningen was and still is the poorest province of the Netherlands.
|Rank||NUTS-2 Region||Member state||GDP per capita|
|in euros||As % of EU-28 average|
|1.||Inner London||United Kingdom||86,400||325%|
|3.||Bruxelles-Cap., Brussels Hfdst.||Belgium||55,100||207%|
|8.||Île de France||France||46,600||175%|
State gas revenues as a percentage
The money the Dutch state earns with gas from Groningen adds up to a huge percentage of total government revenues.
Table: State gas revenues as a percentage of total government revenue.
Source: Data from Statline, CBS (Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics), picture from Dutch Court of Audit publication "How state gas revenues are spent: facts, numbers and scenarios"
What Is The Problem?
Gas extraction causes subsidence and quakes. The number of quakes is increasing.
Houses, schools, offices and irreplaceable historical buildings like medieval churches are subsiding and slowly collapsing. There are major concerns about the dikes, and a large chemical park in the area. Farmland is subsiding, the drains are broken and groundwater level is disturbed and there is environmental pollution (water pollution).
It is a disaster in slow motion.
[not clear how many] buildings need to be reinforced, more than
100 houses should be repaired immediately. Recently, a farm caved in.
In many ways, the disaster taking place in Groningen is invisible. Outwardly, this farm belonging to the earlier mentioned mister Nijhoff (picture) may look all right, but in fact the building is distorted, tilted and ready for demolition. On the next page, you'll find pictures of houses that have been shored up.
Most images: Schokkend Groningen
Lot's of images of severely damaged buildings.
“As a legal expert I say: if you hit… a pedestrian on a crossing, and this pedestrian has a weak skull - the legal doctrine calls this an Eggshell Skull, meaning the pedestrian is bound to sustain more damage than others, because of his frailty - then legally you'll still have to pay for all damages. You've got to take the victim as you find him, meaning you've got to take the house as you find it, because you are the one damaging it. You can't state the house has weak foundations and blame this on the owners. If it weren't for the damaging quakes, that house would've been as solid as a dike.” Prof mr. dr. F.T. Oldenhuis, Professor of Religion and Law
Several large integrated urban development projects have been financed with state revenues from natural gas. Gas from Groningen paid for costly HSL high speed line projects around rail stations Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Den Haag and Breda. Gas from Groningen also paid for development of the Amsterdam Zuidas business district. And the HSL South rail line, the Betuweroute, Mainport Development Rotterdam. For several years, state revenues from natural gas went into the Economic Structure Enhancing Fund. This fund was used to invest, amongst others, 16.9 million euro in South Holland - giving huge chunks of that region a vital economic role. Also, the glasshouse horticulture sector in South Holland was offered the natural gas at very low rates, so companies didn't need to import and store oil anymore. In summary: for decades, the enormous gas field that was discovered in 1959 near Slochteren in the province of Groningen has been the mainstay of Dutch economy and prosperity. Most of the wealth materialized outside of Groningen, in the Randstad conurbation.
Damages in 't Lage van de Weg – Damages in 't Stort – Damages in 't Zandt – Damages in Achter-Thesinge – Damages in Adorp – Damages in Ae – Damages in Amsweer – Damages in Appingedam – Damages in Arwerd – Damages in Baamsum – Damages in Baflo – Damages in Bedum – Damages in Bierum – Damages in Biessum – Damages in Binnen – Damages in Blokum – Damages in Bokum – Damages in Borgsweer – Damages in Breede – Damages in Broek – Damages in Dallingeweer – Damages in De Paauwen – Damages in De Zanden – Damages in Dekkershuizen – Damages in Delfzijl – Damages in Den Andel – Damages in Denemarken – Damages in Doodstil – Damages in Douwen – Damages in Eekwerd – Damages in Eemshaven – Damages in Eenrum – Damages in Eenum – Damages in Ellerhuizen – Damages in Engelbert – Damages in Eppenhuizen – Damages in Ewer – Damages in Ezinge – Damages in Farmsum – Damages in Feerwerd – Damages in Feldwerd – Damages in Fiemel – Damages in Froombosch – Damages in Gaarland – Damages in Garmerwolde – Damages in Garnwerd – Damages in Garrelsweer – Damages in Garsthuizen – Damages in Geefsweer – Damages in Godlinze – Damages in Grijssloot – Damages in Groot Maarslag – Damages in Harkstede – Damages in Hefswal – Damages in Heidenschap – Damages in Hellum – Damages in Heveskes – Damages in Heveskesklooster – Damages in Holwierde – Damages in Hornhuizen – Damages in Houwerzijl – Damages in Huizinge – Damages in Ideweer – Damages in Kaakhorn – Damages in Kantens – Damages in Katershorn – Damages in Klein Harkstede – Damages in Klein Maarslag – Damages in Kleine Huisjes – Damages in Kloosterburen – Damages in Kolham – Damages in Koningslaagte – Damages in Koningsoord – Damages in Krewerd – Damages in Kröddeburen – Damages in Kruisweg – Damages in Ladysmith – Damages in Lageland – Damages in Lalleweer – Damages in Laskwerd – Damages in Lauwersoog – Damages in Leens – Damages in Leentjer – Damages in Leermens – Damages in Lellens – Damages in Loppersum – Damages in Losdorp – Damages in Luddeweer – Damages in Meedhuizen – Damages in Meerstad – Damages in Menkeweer – Damages in Mensingeweer – Damages in Middelbert – Damages in Middelstum – Damages in Molenrij – Damages in Nansum – Damages in Naterij – Damages in Niekerk – Damages in Nooitgedacht – Damages in Noordpolderzijl – Damages in Noordwolde – Damages in Oldenzijl – Damages in Oldorp – Damages in Onderdendam – Damages in Onderwierum – Damages in Oosteinde – Damages in Oosternieland – Damages in Oosterwijtwerd – Damages in Oostwold – Damages in Opmeeden – Damages in Oterdum – Damages in Oudedijk – Damages in Oudeschip – Damages in Overschild – Damages in Paapstil – Damages in Pieterburen – Damages in Plattenburg – Damages in Polen – Damages in Rasquert – Damages in Rodewolt – Damages in Roodehaan – Damages in Roodeschool – Damages in Rottum – Damages in Rottumeroog – Damages in Rottumerplaat – Damages in Ruiten – Damages in Saaxumhuizen – Damages in Sauwerd – Damages in Schaaphok – Damages in Scharmer – Damages in Schildwolde – Damages in Schouwen – Damages in Schouwerzijl – Damages in Siddeburen – Damages in Simonszand – Damages in Sint Annen – Damages in Sint Annerhuisjes – Damages in Slochteren – Damages in Spijk – Damages in Startenhuizen – Damages in Stedum – Damages in Steendam – Damages in Stitswerd – Damages in Ten Boer – Damages in Ten Post – Damages in Ter Laan – Damages in Termunten – Damages in Termunterzijl – Damages in Thesinge – Damages in Tinallinge – Damages in Tjuchem; – Damages in Toornwerd – Damages in Tuikwerd – Damages in Tuikwerderrak – Damages in Tweehuizen – Damages in Uiteinde – Damages in Uithuizen – Damages in Uithuizermeeden – Damages in Uitwierde – Damages in Ulrum – Damages in Usquert – Damages in Valom – Damages in Veendijk – Damages in Vierburen – Damages in Vierhuizen – Damages in Vliedorp – Damages in Wadwerd – Damages in Wagenborgen – Damages in Warffum – Damages in Warfhuizen – Damages in Wartum – Damages in Wehe-den Hoorn – Damages in Weiwerd – Damages in Westerdijkshorn – Damages in Westeremden – Damages in Westernieland – Damages in Westerwijtwerd – Damages in Wetsinge – Damages in Wierhuizen – Damages in Wilderhof – Damages in Willemsstreek – Damages in Winneweer – Damages in Winsum – Damages in Wirdum – Damages in Wittewierum – Damages in Woldendorp – Damages in Woldendorp – Damages in Woltersum – Damages in Woudbloem – Damages in Zandeweer – Damages in Zeerijp – Damages in Zeshuizen – Damages in Zevenhuizen – Damages in Zijldijk – Damages in Zoutkamp – Damages in Zuidwolde – Damages in Zuurdijk –
How could such light tremors cause any damage?
“I now understand that these Richter scales do not apply here.” – construction engineer
Earthquakes as a result of gas extraction occur just below the surface of the earth. A shallow “gas quake” of 2 on the Richter scale has a lot more impact than a natural earthquake of the same magnitude 20 to 100 km deep.
Experts agree that the Richter scale does not do the situation in Groningen justice and only serves to trivialize the case.
Fracking also is related to these shallow quakes.
Transcript: prof. mr. dr. J.G. Brouwer, professor of Legal Methods: “And I also asked a structural engineer… last week in Groningen. He’s one of the people involved with the new building code, that NEN standard. When did you become, I asked, when were you alarmed? And he says: “After the Huizinge quake.” But before that? Well, yes, he says, I always thought, Richter is nothing, a magnitude of two, perhaps three. He says, only now I understand that this Richter scale doesn’t apply here. And only now I understand that our building code needs to be overhauled. These are high-frequency vibrations, short bursts. He says, actually, we don’t know what the new building code should entail.”
But there is more
- No confidence in politicians
- Frustration because almost all gas revenues were spent outside of Groningen
- Pensions lost and gone to the ground
- Houses (with mortgages) which can't be sold
- Psychological damage
- Poverty and unemployment
- Undemocratic processes
- Arbitrary handling of compensation claims
- No legal assistance insurance because it is by now a 'known fact' that people in Groningen have a conflict with Shell and Exxon
- Fear of a severe quake and its consequences
- Children wetting their pants again at night because they're scared
- Kafkaesque procedures
- Having to move out of your house for longer periods of time
- Strangers coming in and out of your home and measuring it and probing it all the time
What Makes The Groningen Situation Unique
- Compared to gas fields in other parts of the world, the Groningen gas field is densely populated;
- The quakes are very shallow and therefore have more effect;
- It's not only the quakes but also the slow sagging of the ground. The land in Groningen has a complex structure which hasn't been studied properly and is still poorly understood;
- The Groningen quakes are anything but 'a fact of life' - they're the result of political choices made by a government that has questionable connections to two multinationals: Shell and Exxon. They can stop the quakes if they want;
You'd think that this combination would draw the attention of all sorts of scientists, but this is not the case. Over the last decades, barely a handful of scientists have done something with this rather unique combination.
real time information
total number of gas quakes: ––––
total number of damage reports: ––––
These are earthquakes in and near The Netherlands. Almost all of these quakes occurred in Groningen. It's these shallow, gas extraction induced quakes that have been linked to widespread property damages.
Here you see the 10 most recent quakes (realtime data).
Damage reports per municipality (“realtime”-data, updated 1x per day).
Something is changing.