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The Netherlands: Dutch Treatment

2 minute read

In 1959, after eleven years of test-drilling, a Dutch oil company jointly owned by Shell and Jersey Standard finally hit natural gas under the muddy reclaimed soil of The Netherlands’ north eastern province of Groningen. How big the fields were neither the oilmen nor the government ever felt moved to disclose. But fortnight ago. coming before Parliament to ask authority to tap the fields. Economics Minister Jan De Pous at last let the gas out of the bag. The Netherlands’ known reserves of natural gas. he reported, amounted to at least 350 billion cubic meters—more than the combined reserves of France and Italy, and enough to supply all the Common Market nations for eight years or more.

The thrifty Dutch are not about to spend their liquid gold recklessly. Shell and Esso have been shepherded into a shotgun marriage w?ith The Netherlands States Mines to market the gas. and De Pous. now-dubbed “The Sheik” by wags around The Hague, is laying down stringent marketing regulations. Present plans are to reserve about 25 billion cubic feet of it for “premium” industrial use. including the fueling of projected new aluminum and ammonia plants, and to enable Dutch householders to convert to gas furnaces and stoves by 1966.

Unlike other gas-producing nations, however, The Netherlands will not burn up its natural gas to make electric power. Instead, the Dutch will export it to West Germany, Belgium, and possibly Britain, and continue to make their own electricity with imported fuel oil, which is cheaper than gas. By careful management, Dutch planners expect to keep the Groningen field in production for 30 years—or roughly the amount of time they expect it to take before nuclear energy begins to emerge as Europe’s main power source.

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