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Dutch court halts work on gas project
by Staff Writers
Alkmaar, Netherlands (UPI) Aug 10, 2011

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The Dutch high court has put a temporary halt on preparations to construct Europe's the biggest natural gas storage facility north of Amsterdam.

The Council of State ruled Monday that work on the $1.13 billion Bergermeer Gas Storage project in the Netherlands must shut down while objections of residents and plan opponents are sorted out and legal precedents researched.

The Hague court said more time is needed before a final go-ahead is given to the Bergermeer project because the "complex questions of law" involved, the Netherlands online news Web site DutchNews.nl reported.

Citing wide opposition to the plan, the Council of State ruled that a temporary halt won't affect short-term gas supplies, saying, "It cannot be ruled out that the gas storage facility will have consequences for its immediate surroundings."

Being built at Alkmaar, Netherlands, by a consortium headed by the Abu Dhabi national gas company TAQA, the Dutch government granted the final statutory approvals and permits to construct and operate the facility in May 2011. The storage operations are to start in 2013 with full commercial operations in 2014.

But the environmental group Natuurmonumenten, as well as local officials in the North Holland city of Bergen, continues to oppose the plans, even after others dropped opposition when the government promised to draw up an economic compensation package, the Web site reported.

Under the plans, the nearly-empty Bergermeer reservoir, which once held 593 billion cubic feet of natural gas 7,200 feet underground, would be reused to store gas.

Gas was extracted from reservoir since the 1970s but it is now almost empty. Rather than decommissioning the site, TAQA says it will employ "modern technology and innovation within the energy sector" to reuse the site to store more than 141 billion cubic feet of gas, which is enough to heat 1.6 million Dutch households for a year.

Calling the project "a major contribution to security of gas supply to Northwest Europe," the company says the project involves drilling new wells, building a gas treatment plant and laying almost 25 miles of new pipelines.

TAQA says six of the site's nine existing wells will be reused and 14 new ones will be drilled, with the associated infrastructure housed underground so that they won't be visible from the surface.

Gas brought to the surface will cleaned, dried and compressed with a new a gas treatment and compression facility will to be built in an Alkmaar industrial park, with new pipelines laid to transport gas between the reservoir, the treatment and the existing Dutch national gas transport system.

A TAQA spokeswoman told the Netherlands daily De Telegraaf it "regrets" the court's decision to suspend the project.

"This means we are temporarily not able to carry out the project work so, unfortunately, it is delayed," she said. "We will now investigate what we can do to reduce the impact of this decision as soon as possible."

The spokeswoman said the company is "confident in the merits of the project but, the sooner we can go, the better."

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