Netherlands won't permit gas drilling in sensitive Wadden Sea, government says

(Reuters) - The Netherlands will not permit companies to drill for gas in the Dutch part of the protected Wadden Sea, the Dutch government said, in a move that will block planned exploration by Shell and ExxonMobil joint venture NAM.

Mining minister Hans Vijlbrief said new projections for an accelerated rise of sea levels due to climate change had altered the picture for gas drilling at the site, increasing risks that extraction could pose for the seabed.

NAM discovered gas reserves of up to 40 billion cubic meters (bcm) in the Wadden Sea in the mid-1990s and forecast additional volumes of 30 to 130 bcm might be found there.

Since then, the issue of gas drilling in the environmentally sensitive nature reserve has become a sensitive topic.

The Wadden Sea is a UNESCO World Heritage site but last year the United Nations warned it could lose that status if gas drilling were to be permitted there.

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