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Taqa pushes on with gas plan despite drill setback

Taqa, the energy investment company majority-owned by the Abu Dhabi Government, is proceeding with some work on a gas storage site in the Netherlands despite a Dutch order to halt drilling.

Abu Dhabi National Energy, the energy investment company known as Taqa, is pressing ahead with plans to build Europe's biggest underground gas storage facility despite an order to suspend drilling because of safety fears.

A Dutch council this week ordered Taqa to halt the 800 million (Dh4.18 billion) project after environmentalists and residents voiced concerns the plan to pump gas into a former natural gas chamber north of Amsterdam could destabilise an area that has felt earth tremors in recent years.

Taqa's shares on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange General Index slipped more than 3 per cent yesterday to close at Dh1.17 after reports of the suspension emerged.

The order will be in place until a decision is made by the council, expected next year, on whether the project can go ahead. It is expected to push back by at least a year the project's original 2013 completion date, said Allan Virtanen, a spokesman for Taqa's operations in the Netherlands.

"We're more than confident that the verdict will be positive," Mr Virtanen said yesterday. "We're still hoping to provide [some] capacity in 2014."

Taqa will proceed with the part of the plans not covered in the council's order, such as building pipelines and gas processing plants, while its Russian partner Gazprom is to continue pumping gas into the storage reservoir to maintain pressure.

The Bergermeer project would put more than 4 billion cubic metres of natural gas into the underground reservoir.

Taqa is a 60 per cent stakeholder in Bergermeer, with the second-largest investor Energie Beheer Nederlandowned by the Dutch government.

Taqa, which has commissioned studies on the safety and environmental risks of the storage site, insists the plan is safe.

"By refilling the reservoir, we're actually decreasing the risk of earth tremors because we're bringing it back to its original state," Mr Virtanen said.

Taqa and its partners will stick to the original schedule for pipelines and gas processing plants, he added.

ayee@thenational.ae

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