Since the discovery of the Groningen gas field in 1959, the Netherlands has been a key player in the European gas market. The Netherlands has built up a large onshore and offshore Exploration and Production (“E&P”) sector, it has a highly developed gas transmission and distribution network, and is a major exporter of gas to other EU Member States. The Netherlands has considerable expertise in all parts of the gas supply chain, and is a world centre for Research and development (“R&D”) in natural gas supply and use. More recently construction has begun on terminals to allow the import of Liquid Natural Gas (“LNG”) to the Netherlands.
However, Dutch gas reserves are now in decline, and the Netherlands will become a net importer of gas around 2025. The Dutch government wishes to capitalise on the existing industry and skills and sustain the Netherlands’ place in the European gas industry beyond the life of the existing gas fields. In November 2009 the Minister of Economic Affairs published a paper describing the strategy of turning the Netherlands into a ‘Gas Hub’ or ‘gas roundabout’ for north-west Europe, which we refer to as the ‘Government Report’ for convenience. The Dutch government intends that the gas hub would capitalise on the existing skills and industry, increase competition and security of supply in the Dutch gas market, create employment and make a significant contribution to the Dutch economy.