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Permitting & Licensing

The development of a natural gas prospect encompasses four distinct phases that are each subject to various regulatory requirements. These requirements, coupled with Vermilion’s focus on sustainability and the environment, ensure that development occurs in a responsible manner. We believe that the Netherlands’ stringent regulatory framework encourages the development of the country’s natural gas resources in the most environmentally protective manner possible. The following describes the four phases associated with developing a natural gas prospect in the Netherlands and the associated permitting and licensing requirements.

Phase 1: The Search for Natural Gas

Based on previously conducted geological studies, a company may suspect that the subsurface layers of a particular area contain a commercially-viable deposit of natural gas. To further study this possibility, a seismic survey may be carried out. Seismic survey results provide additional information regarding the nature of subsurface structures and support a more accurate assessment as to the existence and location of potential natural gas reservoirs. This well-understood, non-invasive procedure includes generating artificial vibrations through a controlled source of energy such as vibration cars. By interpreting the reflections and refractions of these vibrations, geologists can identify the different strata in the earth's crust, as each layer reflects the vibration in a unique manner.

To undertake a seismic survey in a specific area, Vermilion must obtain an exploration license from the Ministry of Economic Affairs (“MEA”) as well as an environmental permit for the exploration license area. In addition, certain exemptions for the transport of explosives are required and a permit to carry out works under the applicable municipal law may also be required.

Activity authorization competent authority
Right to explore  Exploration license • Ministry of Economic Affairs
Seismic survey

• Transport exemption

• Environmental permit

• Environmental permit for works

• Rijkswaterstaat

• Municipality

• Municipality

Click here to see Vermilion’s current exploration licenses covering the areas where we have the exclusive right, and responsibility, to actively search for natural gas.

Phase 2: Exploration Drilling

If the seismic survey results are favorable, an exploration well may be drilled to confirm the existence and commercial viability of the targeted reservoir. During the planning stages of the exploration well, the location in the subsurface where the well will be drilled to (the downhole target) is determined. The surface area surrounding the downhole target is assessed to determine the most suitable surface location from which to drill the exploration well, ensuring that the operation can be conducted in a safe and responsible manner. The surface location assessment incorporates consultation with the landowner and the competent authority and takes into account the distance from houses, nature reserves and site accessibility, among other factors.

Prior to commencing construction of the exploration well drilling site and any associated access roads, a change of zoning or an environmental permit reflecting the deviation from the zoning plan, is required. The relevant municipality is the competent authority in this matter and, prior to granting the requested zoning change or environmental permit, will ensure that an Environmental Impact Assessment (“EIA”) has been conducted. The EIA is reviewed by the competent authority to assess whether the proposed development has the potential to cause adverse environmental effects.

In addition, prior to the commencement of any construction work at the site (drilling basement, fencing, etc.) an environmental permit for construction is required from the municipality. When a new natural gas reservoir can be drilled from an existing production site, the MEA is responsible for issuing the environmental permit for construction.

Notification of any potential water issues (including laying paving, discharge into surface water and dewatering) must be provided to the Water Board under the Water Act and a license may be required.

After the exploration well drilling site has been built but before the temporary mobile drilling rig is installed and drilling commences, a notification must be submitted to the MEA under the Decree on General Rules Environmental and Mining (BARMM). In addition, a drilling plan as well as the construction work program and security plans must be submitted for approval to the State Supervision of Mines (“SSM”). 

The actual drilling of a borehole can take approximately three weeks to six weeks when operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Vermilion takes every effort to minimize nuisances associated with noise, light and transport movements during drilling activities. Once the drilling is complete the rig is moved off site and a valve, referred to as a Christmas tree, is placed on the borehole. If the drilling is not successful, the MEA is notified and the well will be permanently sealed in a safe and responsible manner. In consultation with the landowner and the competent authority it is then determined whether, following the clean-up of the site, it is restored to its original state or made suitable for any other purposes (e.g. geothermal). If the drilling is successful, the operation will move to the Production phase.

Activity authorization competent authority
Exploration location planning

• Environmental Impact Assessment review

• Change of zoning plan or environmental permit (deviation from zoning plan)

• Environmental permit (construction)

• Water Act permit / notification

• Municipality*

• Municipality*

• Municipality*

• Water Board

Exploration drilling

• Notification pursuant to the BARMM

• Drill Plan

• Work programs, security plans, etc.

• Ministry of Economic Affairs 

• SSM

• SSM

 * If the drilling operation will be conducted from an existing mining location, these elements fall under the Mining Act and the Ministry of Economic Affairs is the competent authority.

Phase 3: Production

If the exploration well revealed the presence of an economically viable natural gas reservoir, Vermilion will apply for a production license from the MEA. This license gives the operator the exclusive right, and responsibility, to produce natural gas within a certain area for a specified period of time. Vermilion currently holds 17 production licenses.

Prior to producing natural gas, the exploration drilling site must be converted to a production site. This requires a further change of zoning or an environmental permit reflecting the deviation from the prior zoning plan. As with the exploration drilling phase, an EIA must be conducted. The construction and operation of the production site requires an additional environmental permit. The MEA is the competent authority in respect of all of these matters. The environmental permit associated with the deviation from the prior zoning plan requires the support of the municipal council which is provided through a declaration of no objection.

In addition to these requirements associated with surface installations, the Mining Act requires the submission of a production plan to the MEA before natural gas production can commence. A production plan should cover the following topics as a minimum:

  •  Data of the submitter;
  •  Description of the geology of the layer which is produced;
  •  Description of the existing infrastructure;
  •  Description of the expected volume of minerals present and their location;
  •  The timing and duration of the production;
  •  The method of production and related activities;
  •  Soil movement caused by the extraction and measures to prevent damage caused by soil movement.

The above aspects of the production plan are publically available. There is also a confidential component to the plan that includes commercially sensitive information such as the amount gas estimated to be recoverable and expected production costs.

The production plan is reviewed by the MEA as well as the SSM, the TNO (Netherlands Organization for Practical Scientific Investigation), the Technical Committee Soil Movement (TCBB) and the Mining Council all of which advise the MEA on the submitted plan. 

In order to monitor subsidence and ground vibrations, continuous measurements must be carried out. As a result, in addition to the production plan, Vermilion also submits a measurement plan and a monitoring plan to the MEA. Prior to starting natural gas production, measurements are completed to determine pre-production baselines and measurements. Only once the MEA has approved the production plan and these measurements have been completed, can production start. The MEA will review the predictions of subsidence and ground vibrations from the production plan with the results of the ongoing measurements and monitoring.

Vermilion must also provide the necessary work programs, security plans and other relevant information to the SSM which monitors natural gas production.

Activity Authorization Competent Authority
Right to produce gas  • Production license • Ministry of Economic Affairs
Construction and use of production site

• Environmental Impact Assessment review 

•  Change of zoning plan or environmental permit (deviation from zoning plan)

•  Environmental permit (environmental)

• Ministry of Economic Affairs 

• Municipality and Ministry of Economic 

• Ministry of Economic Affairs 

Production

• Production plan 

• Measurement and monitoring plan

• Work programs, security plans, etc. 

• Ministry of Economic Affairs 

• Ministry of Economic Affairs 

• State Supervision of Mines (SSM) 

Phase 4: Reclamation and Abandonment

Once the natural gas wells at the location are depleted, Vermilion will dismantle the site and return it to its original condition. Based on the preferences of the landowner and the competent authority, in certain cases the site may instead be repurposed (e.g. as a geothermal site). In either case, the well is permanently sealed in a safe and responsible manner.

The MEA must be notified of the abandonment of a production site.

 Activity Authorization Competent Authority
Abandonment  • Notification  • Ministry of Economic Affairs 

(Unless otherwise noted, references on this website to "Vermilion", or "the Company", or "we", or "our" collectively refer herein to any or all of the people and operations associated with Vermilion Energy Inc. and/or its subsidiaries including its Dutch subsidiary Vermilion Energy Netherlands B.V. whose operations and activities are the focus of this website)

Vermilion Energy Netherlands B.V.
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Phone: 0517 493 333
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Office - Amsterdam
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Phone: 0517 493 306
International: 0031 517 493 306
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