AMSTERDAM, April 19 (Reuters) - Large production cuts at its vast Groningen gas field turned the Netherlands into a net importer of gas last year for the first time since the 1950s, the Dutch national statistics office said Thursday.
The Dutch have been one of the major gas suppliers in Europe for decades, exploiting what once was Europe’s largest gas field in the northern region of Groningen.
But they have rapidly shrunk production in recent years, as a string of earthquakes directly related to gas extraction damaged thousands of houses and buildings.
Production at the Groningen field has been cut by 60 percent since its 2013 peak of 53.8 billion cubic metres (bcm) per year, and the Dutch government last month said it would phase out production by 2030.
Last year, total production at all Dutch gas fields decreased by 13 percent to the equivalent of 1,390 petajoules, Statistics Netherlands said, while imports rose by nearly a fifth to 1,613 petajoules.
The fourth consecutive drop in production meant foreign supply overtook domestic gas for the time since Dutch production began in the 1950s.
The growing demand for foreign gas was mainly met by Norway, which saw its export to the Netherlands rise by a third in 2017. The considerably smaller stream of British gas to the Netherlands increased by 44 percent. (Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Mark Potter)