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Highlights

Dutch Groningen output decline drives sharp fall

Growing import gap to be filled by 'variety' of sources

UK set for production drop, Romania boosting output

London — European gas production -- including Norway -- is set to fall to just 202 Bcm by 2024, the International Energy Agency said Friday, a drop of some 48 Bcm from last year's levels.

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In its latest annual gas report, the IEA said the expected decline in European production was largely due to the accelerated output fall at the giant Groningen field in the Netherlands.

"Domestic European production is set to fall at an average rate of 3.5%/year primarily driven by the Groningen phase-out in the Netherlands and declining production in the North Sea," Keisuke Sadamori, director, energy markets and security, at the IEA, said during a webinar.

The Netherlands, it said, would account for over 60% of the decline in European gas supply over the forecast period.

Falling indigenous gas production is making Europe increasingly dependent on imports, with LNG, Russia and gas entering Europe via the Southern Gas Corridor sources of supply able to meet the growing import gap, the agency said.

European gas import requirements are expected to increase by almost 50 Bcm/year over the forecast period to reach 336 Bcm/year in 2024, according to the IEA's forecasts.

"This structural decline in domestic production, combined with the expiry of several long-term pipeline contracts, opens opportunities for new sources of supply, including LNG," Sadamori said.

"Our forecast assumes that the incremental import requirement will be met by a variety of supply sources, including new pipeline gas imported through the Southern Gas Corridor, additional LNG volumes from an increasingly flexible global market and from traditional suppliers such as Russia," he said.

Because of this diversification, the market share of Russian pipeline gas is expected to decline from its 2018 record high of 37% to a range of 33%-36% through the forecast period, the IEA said.

DUTCH DECLINE

Last year, European production dropped to 250 Bcm, driven by an 8 Bcm drop in the Netherlands due to stricter output quotas following years of earthquakes in the Groningen region.

The Dutch State Supervision of Mines (SodM) recommended last month that the production cap at Groningen be cut to 12 Bcm for Gas Year 19 -- a much bigger reduction than first expected -- following another major earthquake on May 22.

SodM said it was recommending a quota lower than the 15.9 Bcm that gas grid operator Gasunie advised on the basis of security of supply given the "risks and impact that gas extraction entails for the people of Groningen."

Groningen production -- which hit a recent peak of 54 Bcm in 2013 -- could be cut further to below 4 Bcm/year as early as 2022, according to government plans.

The IEA said that in order to accommodate the gradually declining production cap on the Groningen field without disrupting the gas supply-demand balance in the Netherlands and northwest Europe, a number of measures have been undertaken.

These include the construction of a new conversion facility in Zuidbroek, which is due to be commissioned in the first quarter of 2022, allowing Groningen gas production to decrease by 7 Bcm/year.

In addition, the nine largest industrial users of Groningen gas will be forced to switch to other sources of energy by 2022, which could reduce demand for L-gas by another 4-5 Bcm/year.

OTHER EUROPE

Away from the Netherlands, the IEA said it expects Norway to maintain production at the current level until 2024.

In the UK, however, the agency expects production to decline by 3.7% through the forecast period, as decreasing output from depleting fields will not be entirely compensated by the additional output from new fields, including Total's Culzean field whose startup is imminent.

In Denmark, the Tyra field will be temporarily shut down from September 2019 to July 2022, meaning Danish gas imports are expected to increase to meet both domestic consumption and exports to Sweden.

In Romania -- Europe's fourth-largest gas producer -- output is expected to grow at a rate of 1% through the forecast period, the IEA said.

But the forecast does not include the development of the offshore Neptun block, which has an estimated reserve base of 42-84 Bcm.

Operator ExxonMobil and Austria's OMV have put the development of Neptun on hold due to regulatory changes in Romania.

-- Stuart Elliott, Stuart.Elliott@spglobal.com

-- Edited by James Leech, newsdesk@spglobal.com