Dutch Norg gas storage capacity increased despite pending legal ruling

01 September 2017 15:53 Source:ICIS

Transparency data for the Dutch Norg low-calorific natural gas (L-gas) storage facility shows a 20% increase to the site’s technical capacity and an irregular jump in stock level at the end of July. This data shows the site’s capacity seems to have already increased despite an outstanding legal challenge to the government’s proposal to expand the facility.

It is unclear what will happen to the site’s technical capacity and stock level if the expansion is blocked by the Netherlands’ highest general administration court, the council of state. A ruling from the court is due on 7 September at 14:00 Amsterdam time.

According to data reported via the GIE-operated AGSI+ portal here , the working gas volume of the site increased from 58.2TWh (5.96 billion cubic metres (bcm)) to 69.8TWh (7.15bcm) on 31 July 2017.

The change was not publicly acknowledged by the operator on its news page here , or its REMIT page here , nor did AGSI+ acknowledge the change on its own news page here .

On 18 August, GIE told ICIS that there was an “IT issue with NAM and Grijpskerk/Norg data” but has not responded to a follow-up enquiry or provided any further update since.

In addition to a reported jump in working gas volume for Norg, the reported stocks at the site increased by 6.56TWh (0.67bcm) between 26-31 July.

It is technically impossible for shippers to have injected 6.56TWh in that six-day period, based on the listed maximum injection capacity for the Norg site of 448.75GWh/day. At most, 2.69TWh could have been injected.

This suggests that some of Norg’s cushion gas may have been drawn upon as part of a process to expand its working gas volume, but no public details are available and the operator NAM has not replied to ICIS’ requests for information.

Norg is a partially-depleted gas field and in 2015 the government performed an operation to recover 3bcm of its reserves when it heavily reduced the annual Groningen production limit (click here for story).

Justification needed

On 22 March 2017, the council of state ruled against the economy minister’s decision to expand Norg and said the minister needed to “better substantiate his decision” (click here for story and here for ruling).

Following heavy curbs to Groningen gas production, the government wants to increase the capacity of the Norg facility to boost L-gas supply flexibility, but local authorities are concerned about the risk of increasing the pressure of the Norg facility and want more research to be conducted first.

“The minister has not yet given effect to the ruling of 22 March, and so no new, better motivated decision has been taken yet”, a court spokesman told ICIS on Thursday. The municipalities “want to ensure that the preparations for the expansion will be immediately terminated by an administrative short trial procedure”, he added. jake.horslen@icis.com

By Jake Horslen