Discovery and boom
GasTerra's activities date back to the early 1960s. It all started with the discovery of the Groningen gas field in 1959 and the ensuing natural gas boom.
Today, 98% of homes in the Netherlands have a gas connection and approximately 50% of the electricity in the Netherlands is generated at gas-fired power stations. Consequently, the Netherlands still uses natural gas more intensively than any other country in the world.
The Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM) discovered natural gas beneath Groningen in 1959. At that time, it wasn't immediately clear what an enormous economic impact natural gas would have. It was only several years later, after further drilling in the area, that it became evident just how large the Groningen gas field was. It was the largest natural gas reserve discovered up until that point in time with a capacity of some 2,800 billion m³. The discovery led to the foundation of the NV Nederlandse Gasunie in 1963 – a sales organisation and transmission company for Dutch natural gas. Natural gas pipelines were laid, and gas-fired appliances, cookers and ovens were converted at a rapid rate to make them compatible for use with natural gas instead of coal gas. Stoked and coal stoves were replaced by gas stoves and central heating systems. Within a decade, three quarters of the Netherlands had natural gas, and coal and oil were no longer used as a fuel in homes and offices. The industrial, power generation and glasshouse cultivation sectors were also quick to recognise clean natural gas' potential. At this time, the basis was also laid for European-wide natural gas usage. Export contracts were signed with Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. These international sales formed the prelude to the European gas market.
In the 1970s, two oil crises caused the value of natural gas to increase, prompted concerns about the environment to grow and brought about an opinion that nuclear energy would be the dominant energy source by the turn of the century. Within this context, natural gas had only minor economic relevance. These notions soon made way for insights that natural gas in fact had a major role to play as the cleanest of the fossil fuels, gaining it increased popularity in terms of environmental issues.
These new insights led to the Dutch Small Field Policy which gave preference to natural gas from small fields to preserve the Groningen gas field as a strategic reserve.Consequently, dozens of gas fields were added to the portfolio over the years. Gas supplies from these smaller fields have since provided a far larger share of supply than from the larger Groningen gas field.
The 1980s and 1990s
Prices throughout the 1980s fluctuated more unpredictably following the erratic increases caused by the oil crises in the 1970s. These crises gave rise to even more cautious energy policies and forced the Netherlands to make greater strides towards energy savings.
Household gas consumption dropped by an average of 3,000 m³ throughout the 1970s to just under 2,000 m³ by the end of the 1990s. Insulation, double-glazing and above all high-efficiency boilers were the major factors creating these savings. The industrial sector also made significant efficiency improvements, one of these being based on the Milieuplan Industrie [Environmental Plan for Industry (EPI) that GasTerra still provides its industrial customers today.