The Netherlands has approximately 26 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of technically recoverable shale gas reserves, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
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. The North German basin (the Posidonia shales) straddles the border of Germany and Netherlands. Some 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).
The Netherlands is already “basically self-sufficient” in natural gas produced through conventional means. This means a key driver behind shale gas development in many European countries — namely, energy security (especially lessening dependence on Russian gas) — is not as strong a driver in the Netherlands as elsewhere.
After limited exploration activities, there is currently a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the Netherlands through 2020.
Statutory and Regulatory Framework
The Dutch government initially granted concessions for shale gas exploration in four different locations in 2009. 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. 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.
On July 10, 2015, the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs introduced a moratorium on shale gas drilling until 2020. The government announced that no new commercial exploration or extraction of shale gas would take place existing shale gas exploration licenses would not be renewed while the moratorium is in effect. The government’s announcement generally noted that government had commissioned various studies on the social, environmental, and economic consequences of shale gas extraction in the Netherlands. These studies remain in progress to inform future decisions regarding shale development; in particular, the Ministry of Economic Affairs is working on a report which will address “whether the use of (Dutch) shale gas is needed and useful and if it can be exploited on a responsible manner.”
Prime Minister Rutte has stated that exploratory drilling may be allowed to begin before the end of 2016, but that such a decision will depend on the findings of the Ministry of Economic Affair’s study, which remains pending.
Last updated September 2016.