By Bart Meijer
AMSTERDAM, Jan 18 (Reuters) - The Dutch gas regulator will miss a Jan. 25 deadline to issue a recommendation for limits on production at the Groningen gas field following the latest in a series of earthquakes.
Regulator SodM was asked to provide advice on a new production cut after the northern Dutch region was hit by the strongest earthquake in years on Jan 8.
Both the regulator and gas production company NAM, a joint venture between Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil , have said that production needs to be cut substantially from the current level of 21.6 billion cubic metres (bcm) per year to limit seismic risks in the region.
“The advice will not be finished next week. We hope to have clarity on the timing by Monday (Jan. 22)”, SodM spokeswoman Cynthia Heijne said on Thursday.
Responding to the latest earthquake, NAM did not recommend a precise level for future production, saying that decision should be taken by the government.
But SodM criticised NAM for being too vague.
Calculations released by NAM on Thursday showed production theoretically needs to be halved from its present level, to limit risks to a level that the regulator has previously deemed acceptable.
SodM did not want to react to the NAM calculations, but said they would be taken into account in its decision.
Economy Minister Eric Wiebes this week said production will be lowered by “as much as reasonably possible” in the next three years. A detailed proposal will be presented before the end of March, he said.
The Dutch government has lowered gas production several times in recent years, as decades of gas extraction have been linked to dozens of earthquakes every year in the Groningen region, causing damage to thousands of buildings and homes. (Reporting by Bart Meijer; editing by Jason Neely/Keith Weir)