NAM stops discharging waste water in Twente, moved to Drenthe

The Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM) wants to stop discharging waste water in Twente within three years. The company confirmed this on Wednesday. In a council meeting in the municipality of Dinkelland, where local news channel RTV East was present on Tuesday evening, board member Simon Vroemen said that leaving Twente has “great urgency” for NAM. After leaving Twente, the waste water will from now on be returned to the ground in Drenthe.

The waste water is a by-product of the Drenthe oil extraction in Schoonebeek. It is currently transported to Twente via an underground pipeline, where it is injected into an unused lawn. Now the NAM declares that “support for this activity in the Twente region is declining sharply”, and that the water injection should therefore take place in the region where the water also comes from the ground. Because the permit for the move to Drenthe has not yet been completed, NAM gives itself three years to leave Twente.

Local politicians are not happy with NAM’s announcement. Robert Jansen, member of parliament for the province of Overijssel on behalf of GroenLinks, calls the promise “a relocation of the problem”; “and moving it doesn’t make it sustainable.” His party’s commitment “is and remains” for society to stop discharging waste in Twente. “The words of the NAM can be a flight forward”, Jansen tells NRC, ‘to get rid of oil waste for free for another 3 years in the lee of a new solution’.

Municipal councilors who attended the meeting in which the decision of the NAM was announced also did not react enthusiastically, according to RTV Oost. They called the promise “nice talk” and “misleading.” “The sooner you left here, the better,” councilor on behalf of Burgerbelangen Dinkelland Fons Maathuis would have said.

Stop discharge immediately

Steam is used in the oil extraction in Schoonebeek, which makes the oil more liquid, making it easier to extract. The water that is left over contains toxic chemicals. According to the NAM, they do not end up in the water of residents, but residents of Twente who have united, among other things, in Stop Afvalwater Twente, are not reassured. At the end of 2021, NAM temporarily stopped water injection after a crack was discovered in the outer tube of a well. It later turned out that this crack had been in place since 2017.

In December, a majority of the House of Representatives already supported a motion about immediately suspending the discharge of waste water by the NAM in Twente. At the time, outgoing Minister of Economic Affairs Stef Blok advised against the motion, because he could not simply revoke the company’s license. The company itself states that “hundreds of jobs” will be lost every year at the oil field in Schoonebeek, if the injection were to stop immediately. Oil extraction would therefore stop and not resume “if the oil field is idle for too long and cools completely.”

NAM is a subsidiary of Shell and is best known in the Netherlands as the company that has been extracting gas in Groningen since 1959. This causes subsidence and earthquakes, which damage houses. So far, about 122,000 damage reports have been made. In October, the Supreme Court ruled that NAM also had to compensate non-material damage. The Northern Netherlands Court of Appeal previously ruled that physical damage to a home as a result of earthquakes caused by gas extraction is a ‘serious form of nuisance’; “a concrete invasion of the resident’s privacy”.

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