Netherlands, Germany to drill for gas in North Sea
The Netherlands and Germany are moving against their environmental concerns to circumvent Russia's requests for gas payments in ruble as they failed to fulfill Moscow's requests.
The Netherlands and Germany will join efforts in drilling for a new gas field in the North Sea, Amsterdam said Wednesday, a day after Russia stopped supplying the country with gas.
Mining Deputy Minister Hans Vijlbrief "issued permits for the Dutch part today," the Dutch government said in a statement, adding that "an accelerated procedure for the required permits is underway" in Germany.
"The cabinet supports gas extraction in the North Sea in order, for example, to have sufficient gas to heat our houses," the economics and climate ministry said.
The plan to drill for gas around 10 nautical miles (19 km) offshore on the Dutch-German border has long been on the negotiations table - with a lot of controversy surrounding it. However, in light of the Ukraine war, it has garnered a sense of urgency since Russia's Gazprom announced Tuesday that it was cutting gas supplies to the Netherlands.
Russia cut gas supplies because Dutch energy firm GasTerra refused to pay in rubles, which Moscow has been requesting for months now.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had said on March 23 that his country would stop taking payments in currencies that have been "compromised", though he did note that Russia would continue supplying gas in the volumes fixed in earlier contracts.
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said yesterday that all G7 energy ministers agreed that they will not accept Putin's decision and will not comply with it. Habeck also claimed that Putin would not have taken this decision had he not felt like he had his "back against the wall."
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said his country would not deliver gas to Europe for free, in a reiteration of President Vladimir Putin's that Russia would not accept anything but rubles for gas deliveries to "unfriendly countries."
The German state of Lower Saxony decided last year not to issue permits for the drilling near the eco-sensitive islands of Schiermonnikoog and Borkum, and Dutch environmental groups still have concerns.
However, due to the "urgency" of the situation, Lower Saxony is "not making a different decision," according to the Dutch ministry.
The Netherlands was the third European country that Russia cut gas supplies to, the first two being Poland and Bulgaria.
The Kremlin explained that the suspension of natural gas shipments to Poland and Bulgaria was due to their reluctance to pay in rubles and the outcome of hostile acts toward Russia.
Bulgaria later joined the West in its bid to sanction Russia over the war in Ukraine, expelling more Russian diplomats on suspicion of "spying", just two weeks after declaring 10 Russian diplomats "personae non grata."
Germany and The Netherlands are set to extract the first bit of gas from the platform by 2024.