Scientists: Lack of knowledge of Groningen earthquakes due to tunnel vision | Currently

There should have been more independent research into the relationship between earthquakes and early gas extraction. This could have prevented the responsible parties from ending up in a tunnel, scientist Hans Roest said during an interrogation by the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry on Tuesday. Like scientist Hans de Waal, he told his story of tunnel vision, contradictory results, and ignored signs.

Both scientists deplored the tunnel vision that existed from the 1990s until the Huizinge earthquake in 2012. “As a result, it wasn’t given enough attention seriously. And very little outside feedback was requested,” says de Waal. Roest believes that more space for independent voices may prevent the development of tunnel vision.

The Dutch Safety Council (OVV) also wrote this in its powerful 2015 report. So the stories told on Tuesday weren’t entirely new, but they did provide a harrowing picture of the course of events over the years.

In the late 1970s, de Waal conducted research on subsidence as a result of gas extraction and found that the situation was worse than assumed by Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM). His model was adopted a few years later, when the Non-Aligned Movement saw a decline in practice.

However, in 1989 the NAM reverted to the old model, which predicted a lower decline. This happened after a second opinion (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement) made by famous scientists from the American University of MIT. They concluded that the Non-Aligned Movement could use this model.

Hans de Waal

  • He has worked since 1977 as a researcher in the oil and gas extraction subsidence at Shell Research
  • PhD in the effects of gas extraction in the Groningen field on landing
  • He discovered that the drop in Groningen was greater than previously assumed by the Non-Aligned Movement
  • Work began with the regulator SodM. in 2009

De Waal felt “the character is still wanted” in the Non-Aligned Movement

De Waal: “I was so surprised and still didn’t understand.” At that time he felt a kind of “persona unwanted” in the Non-Aligned Movement. “We were still In terms of speechBut the relationship ended. “For years, these limited downside effects were maintained, until finally in 2016 NAM no longer asserted that de Waal’s model was wrong. Only then was he (again) right.

De Waal is curious whether the commission of inquiry will continue to reveal why in 1989 the Non-Aligned Movement took its model off the table.

Roest ‘was not allowed to search for media’

In 1993, a special commission recognized a connection between gas extraction and earthquakes. Rost, who was seen as “sleeping,” has been drawing attention to this for some time. The researchers also said the damage would be “minor” and that the earthquakes would have a maximum strength of 3.3 on the Richter scale.

Roest did not share this conclusion, but the committee did not want to hear it. He was told that he “was not allowed access to the media” and that the National Institute of Islamic Intelligence was his spokesman. After the earthquake in Huizinge, it turned out he was right.

Roest joined the platform of independent geologists in 1993. These scientists expressed a lot of criticism of the NAM and Shell, because there was no independent knowledge. At the time, Roest was still working at TU Delft, but it became a topic of discussion there because of his vision. “There hasn’t been more money from NAM for earthquake research,” Roest says.

He spoke of an area of ​​tension in which his employer found himself: “We have to be independent as a university, but everything falls off the wall at the mention of the word shell.”

Hans Rost

  • I’ve worked at TU Delft for 25 years
  • It was already established years before the “official” recognition of a relationship between earthquakes and gas extraction
  • He joined the independent platform of geologists, but NAM ignored their notes
  • SODM started working in 2001, worried about the number of earthquakes early

‘KNMI thought we shouldn’t get involved’

Both scientists were highly critical of KNMI during their questioning on Tuesday. The institute that investigated earthquakes remained at full power for a long time.

De Waal and Roest eventually made the switch to SodM. The regulator began to worry about the increase in the number of earthquakes from 2006 onwards. “KNMI said it’s not a problem,” de Waal said. “They also felt it was their experiences.”

“How can people be in this tunnel for so long?”

Hans de Waal

This perpetuated the idea that earthquakes were not a cause for concern, Roest explains. He tried to start the discussion, because “Groningen was out of step”, but that didn’t work.

The earthquake at Huizinge was necessary to finally break through this “widely supported idea”. “No one’s been awake before that,” Roest said.

‘How is that possible? Has anyone ever suspected?

De Waal took the opportunity to conduct his own investigation. Two weeks later, he already questioned KNMI’s assumption that the earthquake would have maximum strength. SodM proved that you can never set an upper bound and that the amount of gas extracted has an effect on earthquakes. “KNMI also thought we shouldn’t interfere with it,” says de Waal.

Still wondering “how can people be in this tunnel for so long”. “Was there ever any doubt?”

Still, both de Waal and Roost find it surprising that so little research has been done in the Netherlands. Scientists say the few people who have cared about the environmental consequences of gas extraction since the 1980s have all been in the same tunnel.

De Waal concludes, “Hundreds of billions of billions have been made from the Groningen field. And if you look at what has been invested in the development of independent knowledge, it is very little.”

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