But after the governments of the Netherlands and Germany approved the development of a new gas field about 12 miles off the coast of Schiermonnikoog, the island’s mayor worries about his future.
“We are very concerned that gas drilling will damage this area,” Mayor Ineke said. Van Gent told CNN Business. “We also believe that there is no need to drill [for] new gas in general and that we should invest much more in renewable energy.”
The gas field near Schiermonnikoog is not to start supplying gas to Dutch and German households until 2024. Once launched, it can run for decades, with licenses valid until 2042.
“Basically, we need to get rid of all fossil fuels, and we need to get rid of them very quickly,” said Han Dolman, director of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Marine Research, who opposes the project. “This is not an immediate solution to anything. [related to] gas crisis in Russia.
ONE-Dyas, the Dutch development company, said it has been in frequent contact with local stakeholders since 2018 and has produced an extensive environmental impact report that has been reviewed by regulators. Domestically produced gas also has lower emissions than natural gas imported from other countries.
Great Gas Rush
According to Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, the situation in Europe is “dangerous” and the region must prepare for a “long and harsh winter.”
According to the IEA, even if European countries manage to fill their gas storage facilities by 90%, the region is likely to face supply disruptions early next year if Russia decides to stop gas supplies from October.
This risk has prompted countries to seek alternative fuel sources and save what they can.
It also made it possible for politicians to support the expansion of the gas sector with a conviction that would have been unthinkable just a year ago due to climate concerns. Since February, government officials have lifted production restrictions and approved new drilling sites, often citing the need for pragmatism at a time of high stress.
“You’re just watching this world turn 180 degrees,” said Oswald Klint, an energy analyst at Sanford Bernstein.
Long term view
Some of these gas projects could increase energy supplies to Europe this winter if Russian President Vladimir Putin cuts off flows from Russia.
Luca Benedetto, chief financial officer, said in a statement that the decision was made “in the context of a growing need for energy security within Europe and a very encouraging pricing climate.”
Tara Connolly, an invited Global Witness campaigner based in Brussels, said one of her concerns is that the projects will not be needed once they are actually completed.
“Just before Ukraine, there really was a feeling that there was enough gas infrastructure in Europe, even in the event of a major disruption,” Connolly said. “Now it’s really a different picture.”
In addition, given the timing, renewables could fill gap instead of natural gas, which Connolly says has a smaller carbon footprint than oil and coal but still contributes to global warming.
This opinion is shared by Mayor Schiermonnikog. She also worries about protecting the delicate UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“My main concern [the] subsidence, which means that we also have problems living on the water,” said van Gent.
“It’s in a nature reserve, so in terms of impact, it kind of doubles,” he said. “You have to be careful in these areas, not to mention launching new gas platforms.”
Karsten Mühlenmeier, president of the German North Sea permitting regulator, said that “the territorial sea is a sensitive area where quiet use should be prioritized over mining and private interests,” especially given the need to reduce demand for fossil fuel. However, he gave his consent when the Netherlands signed the agreement and when the political wind in Berlin changed.
“Russia’s aggressive war against Ukraine has proven that securing energy supply is a difficult task that outweighs certain security measures, especially environmental concerns,” Muhlenmeier told CNN Business.
“It is completely irrational for the government to approve – and heavily subsidize – a project like Jackdaw that does nothing to solve the energy price crisis but contributes to climate change,” said climate campaigner Lauren McDonald. “Our dependence on fossil fuels is at the heart of both crises, yet the government continues to try to push new oil and gas projects.”
— Reportage by Rosanne Rubik and Anna Kuban.