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Dutch minister says reduce output at Groningen gas field by "as much as possible"

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch minister for the economy said on Monday that output at the large Groningen gas field should be reduced “by as much as possible” during the current government term through 2021.

Eric Wiebes made the comment following a magnitude 3.4 tremor earlier on Monday that was the largest in recent years.

Dozens of earthquakes every year, resulting from decades of gas extraction, have caused damage to thousands of buildings and homes and prompted a dramatic shift in government policy now aimed at capping output.

The new coalition government under Prime Minister Mark Rutte has already agreed to reduce output to around 20 Billion cubic metres (Bcm) from a current 21.6 bcm, Wiebes was quoted by the ANP news agency as saying in a reaction to Monday’s quake.

“I will try to reduce by as much as possible,” he said. “Whatever it takes, we have to bring down gas production. The Netherlands has to stop using natural gas.”

Amid an ongoing legal battle, the government had proposed last year capping production at the Groningen gas field at 21.6 bcm per year for five years, after a 2015 report found production was risking lives.

That reduction, the justification for which is currently under a legal review, would be down from 24 Bcm in the production year just ended and 39.4 Bcm in 2015-16.

The NAM joint venture between Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil operates the Groningen field.

(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch, editing by David Evans)

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