Warsaw. After decades of supplying itself and its European neighbours with natural gas, an era has officially come to an end for the Netherlands.

The country became a net importer for the first calendar year since it started production from the giant Groningen field in 1963. It joins European nations becoming increasingly reliant on sourcing fuel through pipelines from suppliers such as Norway and Russia or via tanker ships from the US, Qatar and elsewhere.

The shift was inevitable after the nation of 17 million vowed to close Groningen following earthquakes linked to extraction from the deposit in the north. Production from what’s left at the site will continue to earn billions for the Dutch state, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Exxon Mobil Corp. for a few more years at least.

The Netherlands gets about 40 per cent of its energy from gas. GasTerra, a venture between the state and the two oil companies, on Friday said its sales rose 17 per cent to 11.2 billion euros ($12.6 billion) in 2018. More than a third of the fuel came from Groningen, for which it has the exclusive sales rights, with the rest mainly from smaller offshore fields as well as imports from Norway and Russia.

“Since the first molecules of natural gas flowed from Groningen, the Netherlands has been self-sufficient. No longer,” GasTerra Chief Executive Officer Annie Krist said. “Natural gas is still badly needed,” partly to meet increased demand in power generation to back up renewable sources and replace coal.