The province of Groningen is flat and level, lying at an elevation close to sea level. The area is intensely cultivated and water table levels are a matter of concern. When the size of the Groningen gasfield was recognized in the sixties, it was realized, that substantial subsidence might occur at the surface affecting a large area.
Intensive studies were performed over time to predict future subsidence. These studies are supported by theoretical and experimental research in Shell since the 1950’s concerning reservoir compaction and related surface subsidence. To monitor reservoir compaction and surface subsidence on a regular basis, an extensive monitoring program was set up by NAM. The program comprises leveling surveys, GPS measurements, measurements of shallow formation compaction and in-situ reservoir compaction.
In Groningen weak earthquakes have occurred since 1991 at irregular intervals. A multidisciplinary study from 1991–1993 on the relationship between gas production and earthquakes in the northern part of the Netherlands, combined with further studies concluded, that under certain circumstances these earthquakes may result from gas production. Monitoring is carried out through a seismic observation network with borehole sensors and locally installed accelerometers.
Because of the expected impact of subsidence induced by gas production on surface water management, an Agreement was concluded between the Province of Groningen and NAM.
In line with the 1983 Agreement the ‘Commissie Bodemdaling’ was founded, in which both NAM and the Province of Groningen are represented. On the basis of NAM predictions and actual measurements this Committee determines, what measures are to be taken to prevent, minimize or to correct for effects of gas production induced surface subsidence.