The Netherlands has approximately 26 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of technically recoverable shale gas reserves, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.1
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration: Technically Recoverable Shale Oil and Shale Gas Resources: An Assessment of 137 Shale Formations in 41 Countries Outside the United States (June 2013):
Two sizeable basins overlap portions of the country. The West Netherlands basin is located in the southwestern portion of the country and extends offshore.2 The North German basin (the Posidonia shales) straddles the border of Germany and Netherlands.3Some commentators have questioned the economic viability of shale gas production in the country, because Dutch shales are much deeper than those in the United States (approximately three to four kilometers below the surface).4
Once “basically self-sufficient” in natural gas produced through conventional means5, the Netherlands experienced a 42 percent decrease in gas output from 2013 to 2017.6 Previously this meant a key driver behind shale gas development in many European countries — namely, energy security (especially lessening dependence on Russian gas) — was not as strong a driver in the Netherlands as elsewhere.7 But while the Netherlands’ energy import dependency remains low, decreasing production may cause the Netherlands to become a net importer of gas by 2025.8
After limited exploration activities, there is currently a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the Netherlands through 2020.9
Statutory and Regulatory Framework
The Dutch government initially granted concessions for shale gas exploration in four different locations in 2009.10 There had been considerable optimism at the prospects for shale development after the Dutch Energy Council (the Dutch government’s senior adviser on energy matters) in February 2011 published a series of policy recommendations to stimulate development of the industry.11 The recommendations indicated strong support for shale gas development, and a spokesman for the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation (MEA) later confirmed that the Dutch government supported the Dutch Energy Council’s recommendations.12
On July 10, 2015, the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs introduced a moratorium on shale gas drilling until 2020.13 The government announced that no new commercial exploration or extraction of shale gas would take place, and existing shale gas exploration licenses would not be renewed while the moratorium is in effect.14
In February 2018, the Minister of Economic Affairs confirmed that the Dutch government will continue to deny permits for shale gas exploration, stating to parliament that “shale gas is not an option in the Netherlands any more. We are not doing it. It is over and done with.”15 It remains to be seen whether the government’s position will change once the current moratorium on hydraulic fracturing activity expires in 2020.
Last updated September 2018.