January 26, 2016 / 9:47 PM / 2 years ago

UPDATE 1-Dutch gas exports cannot be cut before 2024, minister says

(Adds economy minister comment)

AMSTERDAM, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Dutch gas exports to neighboring countries cannot be cut before 2024 because technical adjustments need to be made so those countries can use gas from other sources, Economy Minister Henk Kamp told parliament Tuesday.

The remarks came after the Labour party, the junior partner in the coalition government, called for a faster reduction of gas exports to Germany, France and Belgium.

The call for reduced exports comes as Netherlands struggles to meet its own energy demand. Output has fallen at its Groningen gas field and the Dutch are trying to reduce reliance on Russian imports.

Production at the Groningen gas field, which supplies roughly 10 percent of the European Union’s gas requirements, is being cut back to reduce the risk of small earthquakes.

Labour member of parliament Frank Vos said the party would prefer exports were reduced in 2018-2020, before the government’s target of 2024, so the gas can be used to power Dutch businesses and homes.

Gas grid operator Gasunie is building a facility to convert gas from Norway or Russia to make it suitable for homes supplied by Groningen gas, which has a different chemical composition.

Conversions in Germany, Belgium and France will be completed by 2024, Kamp said.

“I don’t have a suggestion that it can be done faster in a responsible fashion,” he said. “I don‘t’ want to create the impression that it’s possible to speed up the process.”

In December, the Dutch government set production at the Groningen gas field at 27 billion cubic meters (bcm) through October 2016, down from an initial 39.4 bcm, in line with a court order to limit the risk of earthquakes.

In addition to industrial uses, Groningen gas is pumped to most of 17 million households in the Netherlands and to several million more in neighbouring countries. Germany had already said it plans to cut imports from Groningen to zero by 2030. (Reporting by Anthony Deutsch, editing by Larry King)

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