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AMSTERDAM, May 28 (Reuters) – Production at the Groningen gas field in the Netherlands needs to be cut faster than planned, regulator SodM said on Tuesday, after a 3.4 magnitude earthquake hit the region last week.

Authorities have been forced to repeatedly reduce output at what was once Europe’s largest gas field due to dozens of minor tremors each year that have damaged thousands of homes and sparked protests by locals.

Output should be lowered to 12 billion cubic metres (bcm) for the year from October 2019, the regulator said citing seismic risks in the region.

That would mark a 38 percent cut versus the current year and a 25 percent reduction from plans set out in February to lower output to 15.9 bcm from October.

“A certain amount of risk for the safety of supply needs to be considered in comparison to the risks of gas production for the people in Groningen,” the regulator said.

The 3.4 magnitude earthquake that hit Groningen on May 22 was one of the most severe to strike the region.

The Dutch government in February said output of 15.9 bcm for the year from October 2019 was seen as the minimal level required to guarantee the country’s safety of supply.

Output from the field, which is operated by NAM, a joint venture between Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil , hit a peak of 54 bcm in 2013. Current plans call for ending production at Groningen by 2030. (Reporting by Bart Meijer; editing by Edmund Blair and Jason Neely)

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