Gas has been an inextricable part of the European energy supply in general and the Dutch energy supply in particular for more than half a century. Since its discovery in 1959, the Groningen Gas Field, the largest gas field in the world at the time, has produced over 2,000 billion m3 of natural gas. More than 95% of Dutch households use natural gas for heating. GasTerra has the exclusive right to sell Groningen gas. It is sold on the domestic market and to energy companies in Germany, Belgium and France.
In addition to the Groningen gas, which is low-calorific gas (i.e. it has a relatively low calorific value), GasTerra also sells a large volume of high-calorific gas. Most of this gas comes from the smaller Dutch fields in the North Sea and on land, or is imported from Russia and Norway. The high-calorific gas is used by industry in the Netherlands and abroad and by users of low-calorific gas produced by quality conversion (the addition of nitrogen in special plants). Producers of small field gas can sell it themselves, but do not have to, as GasTerra is legally obliged to buy this gas at the going market price if asked to do so.
In a period of structural and radical change, in which the trade in gas and the transport of gas have been split off from each other and the market liberalised, gas has retained its pre-eminence in the energy supply. All the same the era when that could be taken for granted is over. The position and the image of gas have come under pressure. The positive characteristics of our product, such as comfort, cleanest fossil fuel, flexibility and versatility, are at risk of being pushed into the background. The most important reasons for this in our region have been the earthquakes, which have reinforced the idea among many people that gas is at best a necessary evil, and the crisis involving Russia and Ukraine, which has strengthened existing doubts about the security of the gas supply in Europe. In addition, it has become increasingly understood throughout the world that the share of fossil fuels in the energy mix must fall sharply in the decades to come, in order to prevent the average temperature rise due to human activity rising by more than one and a half to two degrees.
Natural gas can help to substantially reduce CO2 emissions by replacing the more polluting fuels (oil and especially coal) where this is possible and sensible. After all, gas is by far the cleanest fossil fuel. Nevertheless, an increasingly large group sees our product as primarily part of the problem rather than part of the solution. But the reality is that (natural) gas is both. Throughout the world, in Europe and in the Netherlands gas is essential, and will remain so in the decades to come, both as regards security of supply and a responsible climate policy. On the latter point: GasTerra has, together with sister companies in the Dutch Gas Association KVGN, embraced the Gas by Design concept. The idea behind this is that in the transition towards a climate-neutral energy supply we will only use natural gas where more sustainable alternatives are at present less attractive. In other words, gas is becoming customised.
Finally: despite the major changes that have taken place and will continue to take place in the energy sector, the high economic and social value of this natural treasure must not be underestimated. Almost sixty years after the discovery of the Groningen field, the Netherlands still has access to almost 900 billion cubic metres of conventional natural gas. If this is extracted responsibly, society will continue to benefit from it in the future.