GasTer­ra

Pre­f­ace

2014 was not exactly an ‘ordinary’ year, for GasTerra included. National and international tensions affected our company in various ways and influenced our work. At national level, this concerned the more frequent and stronger occurrence of earthquakes. With all related consequences for the people living in the area around the Groningen Gas Field. They experience damage, feelings of uncertainty and fear. Therefore, the extraction of natural gas, which benefits us socially and economically, also has a dark side, a side that these people are unilaterally and disproportionately confronted with. As a company that forms part of the chain that causes that damage, we are acutely aware of this. Indirectly and very directly: a number of our employees themselves live in the extraction area. There is no doubt in our minds that effective measures are necessary to eliminate the feelings of insecurity.

At international level, relations between the EU and Russia are strained because of the political crisis in the Ukraine. This also affects gas sales, where political and economic stakes in gas are high for both Russia and the EU alike.

In light of this and other developments, GasTerra’s Annual Report 2014 marks a turning point. Over the past years, I could report high sales each year. However, in 2014, both volume and prices were lower than the previous year. 

The average high temperature and the limited output of the Groningen Gas Field were important contributing factors to the decrease in volume. The government took measures in response to the earthquakes. On 17 January 2014, the Dutch Minister for Economic Affairs, Mr Kamp, announced that a maximum volume had been set for the extraction from the Groningen Gas Field. In addition to this, the production from the clusters around Loppersum, where the strongest earthquakes had occurred, was cut back severely. The proposed decision referred to a production ceiling of 42.5 billion cubic metres in 2014 and 2015, and 40 billion cubic metres in 2016. During this period, the extraction from the clusters around Loppersum was maximised to three billion cubic metres per annum. In a letter dated 29 January 2015 to the Dutch Lower House, the minister conveyed that the total extraction in the Groningen Gas Field would be cut back to a maximum of 39.4 billion cubic metres in 2015 and 2016. On 9 February 2015, the minister announced in a letter to the Lower House that the extraction in the first half of 2015 will be restricted to 16.5 billion cubic metres. This level of extraction, according to the minister, makes it possible as of 1 July 2015 both to maintain the level of 39.4 billion cubic metres and to decide on a further reduction to the level of 35 billion cubic metres for the year 2015.

While the producer of the Groningen Gas Field, NAM, is responsible for not exceeding this production ceiling, GasTerra also has an important role to play here. After all, our company is the exclusive vendor of this gas and draws in sufficient volumes of gas from the NAM to meet the demand from our customers. At the same time, the task of our shareholders – the ministry of Economic Affairs, EBN, Shell and ExxonMobil – remains unchanged. Our mission is to maximise the value of Dutch natural gas. For that reason, we are trying to sell all the gas that is offered to us by NAM and from the small fields as well as possible. We successfully achieved this in 2014.

The demand for gas dropped in 2014. This was a European phenomenon and was mainly due to the high temperatures. It was the warmest year since the measurements commenced. Additionally there was no recovery of a traditional market segment for the gas sector: energy companies have set their Gas-Fired Power Stations to low production or shut them down completely, because gas is too expensive compared with coal. Moreover, the CO2 price, which could compensate this difference, is still always several Euros below the required level, because the European Emissions Trading System (ETS) has to contend with a high surplus in emission allowance. The reform of the ETS, which is needed to solve this problem, is yet to be finalised.

The European gas market is going through a turbulent period. It is often said that the Golden Age of Gas, which the International Energy Agency already predicted some years ago, is not particularly evident in our part of the world. Various influences contribute to this. First and foremost, the mind-set. The EU and the majority of its member states want to achieve rapidly a fully sustainable energy supply. That is certainly essential; however, fossil fuels will nevertheless continue to play a significant role in the coming decades. If we want to make short and medium term progress in the climate policy without jeopardising the security of supply, then we will have to keep allocating gas to most important position that the energy mix allows. Natural gas is and will remain the cleanest fossil fuel; replacing coal with gas in particular will consequently directly lead to significant reductions in CO2 emissions. Thanks to its flexible usage, gas can work well with renewable sources. Furthermore, gas can be converted to green biogas. Finally, earth has an abundant supply of natural gas. In this annual report, we discuss significant examples of this, like a product innovation whereby gas is the partner of wind.

Just before the summer I was elected to president of Eurogas, which represents the interests of the gas industrie in Brussels on behalf of a large number of energy companies.  Within this role, I come into close contact with numerous European plans and initiatives that can help the energy sector in general and particularly the gas sector to move forward. For instance, the previous European Commission was on the right track in 2014 with its 2030 Framework. The emphasis this policy places on the reduction in CO2 emissions ties in well with GasTerra and Eurogas’ efforts to tackle the climate issue head on. Apart from preservation and energy saving, positioning gas appropriately within that context should be an essential objective. Thanks to the European Council’s decision to propose a 40 percent reduction in CO2 by 2030, a transparent way forward has been defined for the European energy policy. Juncker’s plans embraced by the new Committee for an Energy Union are also possible contributing factors to improving the European energy management. The five pillars of this initiative – promoting energy security and solidarity, completing the internal energy market, reducing the energy demand, decarbonising the energy mix and stimulating research and innovation in the area of energy – offer numerous reference points for an effective and decisive energy policy and tie in well with what we ourselves advocate and do.

The challenges for the energy sector are immense. The energy economy is facing major and fundamental changes. However, it is certain that gas will continue to play a significant role in that, now and in the future. GasTerra’s motto, Energizing the future, emphasises this. I will gladly work towards this in the coming year. Together with my GasTerra colleagues for whom these are also exciting times. The reduction in our sales volumes and the changing market conditions have compelled us to take a critical look at our costs and organisation. To this end, we initiated a change process in 2014. Such a process unavoidably entails a degree of uncertainty. However, this has not had a negative impact on the operating results. This makes me proud of the GasTerra staff and consequently I look to the future with confidence. 

Gertjan Lankhorst, CEO GasTerra

About GasTer­ra

GasTerra BV is an international trading company in natural gas and it has its registered office at Stationsweg 1 in Groningen. The company operates on the European energy market and accounts for a significant share of the Dutch gas supply. We also provide services related to gas trading. The company has more than 50 years of experience in natural gas procurement and sales. 

Mission

GasTerra’s mission is to maximise the value of Dutch natural gas. GasTerra fulfils a public role with regard to the implementation of the Dutch government’s Small Field Policy. This policy is aimed at promoting natural gas production in smaller gas fields in the Netherlands.

Vision

The economic value and social importance of natural gas underscore GasTerra’s significant role in the utilisation of domestic gas reserves and energy supply in the Netherlands and the European Union. GasTerra promotes the safe and efficient use of natural gas and is active in the development of innovative applications. We attach great importance to making the supply of energy sustainable and initiate projects in this context. Gas will remain an indispensable source of energy in the energy transition process if we wish to safeguard energy supplies and reduce CO2 emission levels. The Netherlands will continue to be a major producer of natural gas for several decades to come.

GasTerra strives to have the transition to sustainability proceed responsibly, i.e. with a view to both economic and ecological interests. GasTerra is governed by the principles of corporate social responsibility (CSR). We have translated the three basic principles of CSR – People, Planet, Profit – into three areas of endeavour of its own: Gas, Green and Groningen. Here, Gas stands for the operating results, Green for our ambition to bring about a socially responsible energy transition, and Groningen for the community of which we are a part.

A focus on customers, results and improvements are GasTerra’s three core values. These are the values that GasTerra’s staff adopt as a premise for all their business dealings. In so doing, we work in conformity with a code of conduct in which integrity and respect serve as the guiding principles. The company strives to build long-lasting business relationships with market operators and to enter into agreements that reflect the value of natural gas and its associated services. 

Strategy

The company implements its mission and vision by capitalising on its position on the European market to the fullest extent possible – specifically in those market segments where demand for natural gas goes hand in hand with demand for supplemental services. In doing so, use is made of gas from Dutch natural resources, as well as the flexibility offered by gas usage. Gas from overseas sources is procured to a limited extent if and when this is coherent with the general supply and demand portfolio. As a proponent of a free energy market, GasTerra is continuously developing new products and services. In this context, we seek to be a reliable and competitive gas supplier to our customers. We aim to contribute to the strengthening of the position of natural gas within the overall energy mix.

Mes­sage from the Board of Su­per­vi­so­ry Di­rec­tors

Meetings

The Board (including the College of Delegate Supervisory Directors) met 11 times, in the presence of the Board of Management. In these meetings, apart from a few exceptions, all members of the Board were present. At two meetings, the Audit Commission (AC) was also represented by the chairperson of this commission. At the invitation of the Board, the external Auditor was present at the meeting, in which the annual report and accounts relating to 2013 were dealt with.

Shareholders’ meeting attendance

Shareholders’ meeting attendance
  Board of Supervisory Directors Delegated Supervisory Board members Audit Committee
C.W.M. Dessens 2/2 9/9  
D.A. Benschop 2/2 9/9  
J.D. Bokhoven  2/2 9/9  
P. Dekker 2/2 N/A  
M.E.P. Dierikx 2/2 8/9  
J.M. Van Roost 2/2 8/9  
F.A.E. Schittecatte (with effect from 15 February 2014) 1/2 N/A  
A.P.N. van Veldhoven (up to and including 15 February 2014) 1/2 N/A  
A.J. Boekelman     4/4
T.P.K. Huysinga     4/4
A.J. van der Linden     4/4
B.E. Westgren     4/4

* The first number indicates attendance, the second number is the number of meetings that were held this year. 

Strategy and Objectives

The company’s strategy and its implementation as a set of objectives for the years ahead were discussed with the Board of Management. Maximisation of the value of Dutch gas continues to be the first matter of importance, and there is no need to adjust the strategy. Also discussed was the extent to which the objectives for the year 2014 had been realised, and the objectives for 2015 were decided on. GasTerra remains committed to drawing attention to the role of natural gas in the transition to a completely sustainable supply of energy. 

The developments surrounding the Groningen earthquake dossier have an explicit impact on the company. The minister’s draft decision that was announced on 17 January 2014 concerning the usability of the Groningen field had no impact on GasTerra’s strategy, but it did influence the way in which the company could put this strategy into effect during 2014. The assessment and management of the risks for NAM for exceeding the set production limits required particular attention. This will also be the case in the coming years. In a letter dated 29 January 2015 to the Dutch Lower House, the minister conveyed that the total extraction in the Groningen Gas Field will be cut back to a maximum of 39.4 bcm in 2015 and 2016.

Risk Management

In 2014, the Board discussed the risks associated with the enterprise and the results of the management’s assessment of the set-up and operation of the internal risk management and control systems (document of representation). Attention was also paid to the management letter from the external Auditor and the corporate social responsibility aspects relevant to GasTerra were also taken under consideration. The Board concludes that GasTerra has a robust control framework, that this functions effectively and is still being further improved in relation to certain points.

Staffing Matters

The Board of Supervisory Directors and the management together annually discuss potential successors present within the organisation who could fulfil management functions. The Board of Supervisory Directors approves the remuneration policy in the form of the CBA mandate.

If applicable, the Board becomes involved in alterations relating to additional jobs of members of the board of management and other members of GasTerra’s management team, and discusses the complete overview of these additional jobs once a year. The overview of additional activities of members of the Board of Supervisory Directors is also reviewed once a year.

Audit Committee

The Board of Supervisory Directors has one standing committee: the Audit Committee. This committee oversees the workings of the internal risk management and control systems, all financial affairs, relations with the external Auditor and the application of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). At one of the meetings of the Supervisory Board, the Audit Committee reported to the Board on the activities it had undertaken.

The Audit Committee met on four occasions during the reporting year in question.

The composition of the Audit Committee did not undergo any changes during the year under review and at year end 2014 consisted of the following members:

A.J. Boekelman (Chairman)
T.P.K. Huysinga
A.H. van der Linden
B.E. Westgren

Self-Evaluation

The Board of Supervisory Directors discussed its own performance in 2014 and in doing so has confirmed the view established in 2013. The recommendations established during the evaluation will be actively monitored and for the most part have been implemented in the meantime. The next evaluation will take place in 2015.

The Audit Committee conducted a self-evaluation in 2014 and shall ensure that the recommendations set out herein be implemented.

Contacts with the employees

At regular intervals, members of the Board have informed the employees of the progress of affairs by means of informal talks. Leaving aside exceptions, the Board always meets in the company’s building.

Consultation meetings between the director and the works council were attended by members of the Board on two occasions in 2014. Topics such as GasTerra 2018 and the new recruitment policy were addressed during these meetings.

Personal Details

As of 15 February 2014, A.P.N. van Veldhoven resigned his position on the Board due to his appointment to another position within ExxonMobil. He was succeeded by F.A.E. Schittecatte.

There has been a vacant position on the Board since 1 June 2013. This vacancy is expected to be filled at the beginning of 2015. 

Annual Accounts

The recommendations from the Board of Supervisory Directors to the General Meeting of Shareholders, to be held in Groningen on 12 February 2015, are as follows:

We have examined the Annual Accounts for 2014, prepared by the Chief Executive Officer in accordance with Article 23 of the Articles of Association. We concur with these Annual Accounts and recommend that:

  • the net profit for 2014 – set at €36 million – be entirely appropriated for payment to the shareholders;
  • the 2014 Annual Accounts be adopted without alteration.

The Board of Supervisory Directors wishes to express its appreciation for the results attained in 2014 and is grateful for the way in which the Board of Management and employees devoted themselves to the company’s objectives during the financial year and for the results that were achieved. The Board wishes everyone working at GasTerra every success in their endeavours to achieve the objectives set for 2015.

The Board of Supervisory Directors,

C.W.M. Dessens, Chairman
D.A. Benschop
J.D. Bokhoven
P. Dekker
M.E.P. Dierikx
J.M. Van Roost
F.A.E. Schittecatte.

Gov­er­nance

GasTerra BV is a private limited company with registered offices in Groningen. The company was founded on 1 July 2005 when NV Nederlandse Gasunie was legally split into a transmission system operator (TSO) and a trading company. In doing so, the gas infrastructure (the gas pipelines) and all gas transmission-related activities remained with Gasunie while the newly formed GasTerra continued with all gas trading activities. 

GasTerra BV ’s authorised share capital is €180 million, split into 40,000 shares of €4,500 each. All shares have been subscribed, fully paid up and registered, and can only be transferred by unanimous approval of the Shareholders’ AGM. The shares are held by the State (10 percent), EBN BV (40 percent), Shell Nederland BV (25 percent) and Esso Nederland BV (25 percent). No share certificates are issued.

GasTerra is not a listed company, as a result of which the Corporate Governance Code does not apply to the organisation. However, where possible and relevant, GasTerra is guided by the principles of the Code and takes the best practice provisions as a guide. In this chapter, we report on the appropriate principles of the Code.

These are to be implemented in the main when it comes to the principles and provisions included under the task and manner of working of the Board of Directors. The tools that the Board of Directors uses for this consist specifically of the annual activity plan, the budget, monthly and quarterly reports and the Business Risk Analysis (BRA) tailored to the organisation. The structure and operation of risk management at GasTerra is described herein (see also Chapter ‘Gas’, containing a description of the principal risks). Risk management has been delegated to the line management. Reports are made to the Board of Directors concerning implementation. Via the BRA, the Board of Directors reports at least once a year to the Audit Committee. The external auditor assesses the operating effectiveness of this system to the extent relevant in the context of the audit of the accounts.

The Board of Directors of GasTerra consists of a Managing Director, nominated on the recommendation of the Supervisory Board, approved by the Minister of Economic Affairs. The Managing Director is appointed for an indefinite period. In addition to the Managing Director, the Board of Directors also consists of three Directors/holders of a general power of attorney: the Financial Director, the Commercial Director and the Director of Strategy and Optimisation. The remuneration of the Managing Director is determined by the Supervisory Board and in addition to a fixed remuneration, it also has a variable component that is dependent on the performance of the organisation. The Supervisory Board decides whether the Managing Director is eligible for a variable remuneration and the amount thereof. The size of the variable remuneration shall not exceed 30 per cent of the fixed salary. The amount of the remuneration of the Managing Director is given elsewhere in the annual report. With regard to the Managing Director, the provisions relating to the maximum number of allowable supervisory board memberships in the Management and Supervision Act shall be observed.

Supervision of the Board of Directors of GasTerra is exercised by the Supervisory Board. The Supervisory Board consists of eight people. One member is appointed directly by the Minister of Economic Affairs, the remaining members are appointed by the Annual General Meeting of Shareholders on the recommendation of the individual shareholders. The number of supervisory board memberships that one person may hold is limited to ensure the proper performance of the duties. The Supervisory Board has appointed its own secretary, who is supported, where necessary, by the Company Secretary.

The Wet Bestuur en Toezicht [Dutch Management and Supervision (Public and Private Companies) Act] came into effect as of 01 January 2013. Among other things, this Act contains a provision concerning the balanced participation of men and women in the management and on the Board of Supervisory Directors. The company’s current allocation of seats on the Board does not yet comply with this provision. One vacancy excisted on the Board of Supervisory Directors during the year under review. At the time of this annual report’s publication, this vacancy had not yet been filled. 

The duty and manner of working of the Supervisory Board are in accordance with the Code set out in its own regulations. By default, the annual report contains a report from the Supervisory Board. A (brief) profile of the members of the Supervisory Board is included in the annual report. The provisions relating to the supervision of the Board of the Directors by the Supervisory Board are effected at the regular meetings of the Supervisory Board. Furthermore, at least once a year (in the absence of the Board of Directors), the Supervisory Board discusses its own performance (and desired competencies) as well as that of its individual members and the Board of Directors.

The Articles of Association stipulate that decisions which are important to GasTerra must be approved by the Supervisory Board or the College of Delegate Supervisory Directors. The Committee of Delegated Supervisory Board members is a statutory company body. The Committee is formed by members of the Supervisory Board and consists of five supervisory directors including the supervisory director who has been appointed by the Minister of Economic Affairs.

The Supervisory Board has established an Audit Committee. The Audit Committee is a non-statutory body composed of four members appointed by the Supervisory Board. The Supervisory Board or the Committee of Delegated Supervisory Directors may refer matters for the consideration of the Audit Committee. Whether solicited or unsolicited, the Audit Committee issues advice to the Supervisory Board or the Committee of Delegated Supervisory Directors on the matters within the remit of the Audit Committee and prepares the decisions of the Supervisory Board in relation to those matters. The Audit Committee generally meets four times a year, and did so in 2014.

The duty and method of working of the Audit Committee are set out in regulations that essentially follow best practice provisions mentioned in the Code. Thus, the duties of the Audit Committee include supervision regarding the financing of the company, operating expenses and capital expenditures in relation to the agreed budgets, the provision of financial information, the operation of the internal risk management and control systems, compliance with recommendations and observations of internal and external auditors, the role and functioning of the internal audit department, maintaining the relationship with the external auditor, and the effect of the information and communications technology. Matters covered in particular by this latter topic are the independence of the auditor, remuneration and the potential provision of work that is not audit-related.

The (system of) remuneration of the Supervisory Board has been approved by the Annual General Meeting of Shareholders (AGM). The total amount of remuneration of the Supervisory Board is stated in the Annual Report.

With regard to the powers of the shareholders, the Articles of Association stipulate that decisions of shareholders may only be taken by a majority of three-fourths of the votes cast. For a number of decisions, in particular the transfer of shares, suspension or dismissal of the Managing Director, amendment of the Articles of Association and dissolution of the Company, unanimity is required.

As regards disclosure of information to shareholders and the potential impact on the share price, it must be noted that the ‘GasTerra share’ is not traded on the financial markets.

With regard to financial reporting, several times a year (at regular meetings), the Supervisory Board, the Committee of Delegated Supervisory Directors and the Audit Committee supervise compliance with the internal procedures relating to the preparation and publication of the annual report, the annual accounts and the quarterly reports.

The Annual General Meeting of Shareholders appoints the external auditor. It is standard procedure for the Audit Commission to inquire the external auditor with regard to his auditor's report on the true and fair view of the financial statements. Furthermore, the Board of Directors and the Supervisory Board report to the Annual General Meeting of Shareholders on the independence of the external auditor and a recommendation is issued for the appointment of an external auditor. For this purpose, the Board of Directors and the Supervisory Board regularly, but at least once every four years, assesses the functioning of the external auditor. KPMG has been appointed to do the audit up to and including the year 2014. As of 2015, Ernst & Young (EY) is GasTerra’s auditor. 

The external auditor's findings concerning the financial statement audit are included in the Internal Audits working plan. Findings concerning the internal audit function are included where necessary in the external auditor’s Management Letter. The Management Letter is discussed at a meeting of the Supervisory Board. The external auditor reports anything he wishes to bring to the attention of the Board of Directors and the Supervisory Board in relation to his audit of the financial statements and other audit engagements. This gives effect to the provisions pertaining to the principle in the Code on the relationship and communication of the external auditor with the company’s organs.

CSR and governance

CSR is an integral part of the strategy at GasTerra and has thus been embedded into our day-to-day operations. Since 2013, GasTerra has integrated the CSR matrix and associated objectives and activities into the Business Plan, which is approved by the Supervisory Board, the most senior governing body. Monitoring of progress is included in the regular reporting cycle. The quarterly reports are discussed by the Committee of Delegated Supervisory Directors, the Advisory Committee of Shareholders and the Audit Committee.

Ma­n­age­ment In­for­ma­tion

Managementteam GasTerra
Managementteam GasTerra

Board of Management

G.J. Lankhorst, Chief Executive Officer

Directors

M.J.W. de Wilde, Chief Financial Officer
A.E.M. Broenink, Director of Strategy & Optimisation
R.E. van Rede, Commercial Director

Heads of Department

A.J.P. Buijs, Communications & Public Affairs Manager
J.R.L.W. Stäbler, Information Technology Manager
B.A. Westmaas, Personnel & Organisation Manager
H.J. van Zijll de Jong, Legal Affairs & Regulation Manager

Board of Supervisory Directors

C.W.M. Dessens, Chairman*
D.A. Benschop*
J.D. Bokhoven*
P. Dekker
M.E.P. Dierikx*
J.M. Van Roost*
F.A.E. Schittecatte

* Also a member of the College of Delegate Supervisory Directors.

The information about the background of the members of the Board of Management and the Board of Supervisory Directors is to be found here. The Message from the Board of Supervisory Directors is to be found here.

The Wet Bestuur en Toezicht (Dutch Management and Supervision (Public and Private Companies) Act) was effective as of 1 January 2013. The Wet Bestuur en Toezicht contains, among other things, a provision concerning the balanced participation of men and women in the management and on the Board of Supervisory Directors. The company's current allocation of seats on the Board does not yet comply with this provision. There has been a vacant position on the Board since 1 June 2013. At the time of this Annual Report's appearance, this vacancy had not yet been filled.

Works council (as at the end of 2014)

R.A. Slob (Chairman)
Z.D. Mulder-Wilts
E.T.O. Medas
A.H. Wijsbeek
L. Beekman
W.C.A. Braat
J. Schriemer

Hu­man Re­sources and Or­gan­i­sa­tion

Our slogan Energizing the future also applies to GasTerra’s human resources policy. We attach great importance to career development, secondments, internship places, traineeships and work experience places. With the developments in the gas market in mind, GasTerra considers it important to keep the workforce flexible. The volumes of gas will decline in the future and market conditions are changing, which may reduce the size of the workforce. For those reasons, the reorganisation project ‘GasTerra 2018’ has been launched. What we wish to do with this is to enable the organisation to continue to maximise the value of Dutch natural gas. In this, the themes of strategy, efficiency, organisation and human resources are focal. The outcomes of this project are expected in 2015.

Staffing and numbers

To ensure flexibility, since 2014, we have only been taking on new employees via the so-called ‘payrolling system’. This means that the staff employed comes from a payroll company. As at 31 December 2014, 194 people were working at GasTerra (178.6 FTE), divided into 54 women and 140 men. 187 were employees with a permanent position, 7 colleagues had a contract for a limited period. 

Management team

GasTerra’s management team remained unchanged in 2014. The team consists of four directors, among whom the CEO, and additionally, four department heads.

Middle management team

Likewise, there was no change within the middle management team. The team consists of 21 people.

Internships and work experience places

We consider it important to offer internships and work experience places. On the one hand, because we can thus give students or recent graduates the opportunity to gain work experience and on the other hand, because, with their fresh outlook, they can introduce new knowledge into the organisation. These students are mainly recruited locally, in particular via the Energy Academy Europe, the Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen and the University of Groningen.

In 2014, two recent graduates were given work experience placements at GasTerra via the network organisation Noorderlink. Noorderlink consists of the 30 largest employers in the North Netherlands and, in cooperation with companies, offers work experience places. In so doing, this organisation focuses in particular on young people who have just graduated but cannot find a job. In this way, GasTerra provides people with work experience and hence better chances on the labour market. We intend to continue with these work experience places in 2015. 

Traineeship

In addition, in the academic year 2013-2014 for the first time, we welcomed a trainee from the Energy Academy Europe. The trainee was seconded in the context of the Hanze Sustainable Energy Traineeship. This programme gives students the opportunity to further educate themselves in a subject that links to their studies. For GasTerra, in collaboration with ECN, the trainee applied himself to a biogas project, in which he investigated the development of flexibility in the gas market after 2020 and the opportunities to convert to biogas production. This type of traineeship is advantageous both to GasTerra and the student. The student is the perfect link between the company and education because he or she can contribute and gain new knowledge and insights.

Training and career development

In 2014, GasTerra organised the ‘Working from your talent’ workshops. In various sessions, employees were encouraged to think about their talents and careers. This is how we want to motivate our employees to take more individual responsibility in this area. Finally, in 2014, the company again paid full attention to regular job and career-oriented education. 

Secondment

GasTerra is no longer growing in number of job places and has a low job turnover rate. As a result, job progression for staff is not a matter of course. That is why, in 2014, secondment acquired an even more important role. GasTerra encourages its employees to gain experience at other companies. In doing so, we offer employees the opportunity of working for one or two years at a company in the energy sector. Thus, in 2014, we had seven employees in positions at Gasunie, NAM, ExxonMobil, the Energy Delta Institute (EDI) and the International Energy Agency (IEA). 

Collective Labour Agreement and pension

GasTerra staff is actively involved in the company’s union VPG2. Union membership is above 80 percent. In 2014, 168 people came under the Collective Labour Agreement. On 1 January 2015, this Collective Labour Agreement expired. The new negotiations commenced at the end of 2014. The main topics to be addressed in the negotiations are the expense allowance scheme and the necessary adjustments to the new pension scheme. On 1 January 2014, these became part of the Collective Labour Agreement. GasTerra has moved over from a final-salary scheme to an indexed median-salary scheme. 

Health and Safety

In 2014, not a single industrial accident occurred. Absenteeism was comparable with previous years, that is to say: 2.1 percent.

GasTerra’s Occupational Health and Safety (ARBO) policy mentions the following risks: traffic, stress, RSI and minor accidents. In order to make employees conscious of these risks, in 2014 presentations were given, messages placed on the intranet and a training course in fire prevention and extinguishing equipment was organised. Finally, two evacuation exercises took place in 2014.

Objections, complaints and abuses

GasTerra has appointed confidants and has a complaints procedure and a whistle blower scheme. If employees have objections or complaints, or ascertain abuses for which the solution cannot be found among colleagues and managers, they can make use of these arrangements. We have yet again brought these options to people’s attention in 2014. In 2014, no abuses or cases of discrimination were reported, nobody lodged a complaint with the complaints committee and no use was made of the whistle blower scheme.

Com­po­si­tion of the GasTer­ra Su­per­vi­so­ry Board

The Board of Supervisory Directors supervises the management by the Board of Directors and the general course of affairs at GasTerra. The Board of Supervisory Directors consists of eight members, one of whom is appointed by the Minister of Economic Affairs. The Board appoints a chairman from among its members; the Minister of Economic Affairs must approve this appointment. 

The Board of Supervisory Directors designates from among its members a College of Delegated Supervisory Directors, consisting of five members, one of whom is a commissioner appointed by the Minister of Economic Affairs. The Board may delegate its powers to the College, in so far as this delegation does not infringe on the role and powers of the Board of Supervisory Directors. 

The Articles of Association stipulate that every year, at the annual general meeting of shareholders, two members of the Board of Supervisory Directors shall resign, in accordance with a schedule which is determined by drawing lots. The board members who resign are immediately eligible for re-election or reappointment. Successive members of the Board of Supervisory Directors occupy the place of their predecessors on the schedule. 

GasTerra’s Supervisory Board

GasTerra’s Supervisory Board
Name Term of office Competency Date of appointment
C.W.M. Dessens Re-election in 2017 Delegated Commissioner 1 January 2006
D.A. Benschop Re-election in 2016 Delegated Commissioner 1 May 2011
J.D. Bokhoven  Re-election in 2015 Delegated Commissioner 1 November 2007
P. Dekker  Re-election in 2017 Member of the Board of Supervisory Directors 1 July 2005
M.E.P. Dierikx  Re-election in 2018 Delegated Commissioner 2 July 2011
J.M. Van Roost  Re-election in 2018 Delegated Commissioner 1 July 2005
F.A.E. Schittecatte  Re-election in 2015 Member of the Board of Supervisory Directors 15 Februari 2014

One seat on the Board of Supervisory Directors is currently vacant.

C.W.M. Dessens

Stan Dessens was born on 30 October 1947 in Vlaardingen. He is Chairman of the Board of Supervisory Directors and the College of Delegated Commissioners. From 1974, he worked at the Ministry of Economic Affairs, in the Directorate-General for Industry and Energy. From 1988 to 1999, he was Director-General for Energy. In 1999, he was appointed Director-General of Law Enforcement at the Ministry of Justice. Since 2005, he has been self-employed. Mr Dessens holds various management positions, including president of the stichting Aanpak Voertuigcriminaliteit (Foundation for Tackling Vehicle Crime), Governor of the stichting Meld Misdaad Anoniem (Report Crime Anonymously Foundation) and Chairman of the Executive Board of the CATO (CO2Capture, Transport and Storage) project.

Education

Leiden University, Physics (graduated in 1972) and Law (graduated in 1974) 

D.A. Benschop

Dick Benschop was born on 5 November 1957 in Driebergen. He is a Delegated Commissioner of GasTerra. He has worked in various capacities in the Dutch Lower House of Parliament and in the Dutch Labour Party. In 1994, he founded his own consultancy firm. From 1998 to 2002, he returned to politics as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the second Kok cabinet.

In 2003, he entered service with Shell in the European gas company Shell Energy Europe. In early 2006, he moved to Kuala Lumpur where he headed the Gas & Power business (LNG and GTL) in Malaysia. In 2009, he became Vice-President of Strategy for the Royal Dutch Shell Group. Since 1 May 2011, he has been CEO of Shell Nederland and Vice-President of Global Gas Market Development.

Education

VU University Amsterdam, History (graduated in 1984)

J.D. Bokhoven

Jan Dirk Bokhoven was born on 4 March 1957 in Rotterdam. He is a Delegated Commissioner of GasTerra. From 1982 until 2001, he held various positions, with Conoco, Veba and Clyde, among others. In 2001, he joined Energie Beheer Nederland (EBN) as Technical Manager. Since 2007, he has been Chairman of the Board of EBN and responsible for all activities of EBN.

Education

Delft University of Technology, Petroleum Extraction (graduated in 1983)

P. Dekker

Pieter Dekker was born on 16 July 1950 in Wassenaar. He is a member of the Board of Supervisory Directors of GasTerra. From 1977, he held various positions within Shell’s natural gas organisation, in London and Calgary, among other places. In 1997, he returned to the Netherlands and was responsible for Shell’s participation in the Nederlandse Gasgebouw (system of agreements within Dutch Gas sector), particularly for natural gas sales activities. He is also a member of the Board of Supervisory Directors of the Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM – Dutch Petroleum Corporation) and responsible for Shell’s participation in the NoordzeeWind offshore wind energy project in the Netherlands.

Education

Delft University of Technology, Applied Physics (graduated in 1975)

M.E.P. Dierikx

Mark Dierikx was born on 5 June 1953 in Vlissingen (Flushing). He is a Delegated Commissioner of GasTerra. After graduating, he worked for several years in marketing at Esso Chemicals.

Then he opted for a career at the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Here he was initially active in the sphere of Dutch industrial and technological policy, then from 1992 in the sphere of Foreign Economic Relations and from 1994 he occupied the post of Director of Economic Cooperation and Export Policy. In 1996, he moved to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Director for Asia and the Pacific, and also Deputy Director-General for Regional and Country Policy, returning in 2000 to the Ministry of Economic Affairs as exempt Deputy Director General for Foreign Economic Relations. From 2004, Mr Dierikx worked at the Ministry of Transport and Public Works as Director General for Water. From 1 January 2008 to 1 July 2011, he was Director General of Civil Aviation and Maritime Affairs. As of 1 July 2011, Mr Dierikx was appointed Director-General of Energy, Telecommunications and Competition at the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Education

VU University Amsterdam, Organic Chemistry, with minors in Biochemistry and Economics (graduated in 1979) 

J.M. Van Roost

Joost Van Roost was born on 13 April 1955 in Leuven. He is a Delegated Commissioner of GasTerra. From 1979, he held various positions within ExxonMobil. From 1998 onwards, he was Upstream Director of ExxonMobil Benelux. After the merger of Exxon with Mobil, he became president of ExxonMobil Benelux in 2000. He is also director for natural gas and CEO of Esso Nederland BV and CEO of ExxonMobil Petroleum & Chemicals BVBA.

Education

Catholic University Leuven, electronic mechanical engineering (1977), University of Michigan, M.Sc. in Nuclear Engineering (1978), MBA (1983), Catholic University Leuven, MBA (1983)

F.A.E. Schittecatte

Filip Schittecatte was born on 26 January 1978 in Oudenaarde. He is a member of the Board of Supervisory Directors of GasTerra. From 2001, he held various positions with Exxon Mobil, both in Upstream and Downstream, in London, among other places. In his current position as Gas Marketing Manager, he represents ExxonMobil in the Nederlandse Gasgebouw.

Education

University of Ghent, electronic mechanical engineering (2001), Vlerick Leuven-Gent Management School, MBA (2011) 

Stake­hold­er Dia­logue

GasTerra is a natural gas trader. Thereby, we are part of the gas value chain, which runs from extraction to usage. The chain starts with the production of the gas by producers such as NAM. Dealers, also known as shippers, purchase that gas. They sell the gas to industries, energy companies, other gas dealers and financial institutions, among others. Some buyers purchase the gas for their own use, others sell the gas on, or supply it to end users. For the transport of the gas, the infrastructure of (inter)national network companies and regional network operators is used. 

Stakeholders are a valuable source of information about what society expects of GasTerra. The focus of the stakeholder dialogue lies on the role of GasTerra as a gas dealer in the chain. We have identified the following stakeholders:

For the stakeholder analysis 2013, GasTerra spoke with 27 parties, divided among eleven different stakeholder groups. During these interviews, 21 topics were reviewed. In addition, the stakeholders themselves could bring up topics which they deemed to be of importance for GasTerra’s policy. No use was made of this option. Based on the interviews, GasTerra has assigned a score per subject, which indicates the importance of the theme to the stakeholder and GasTerra. This input was used in drawing up the Annual Report for 2014. Because GasTerra did not want to ignore possible developments in 2014 in doing so, halfway through 2014 the enterprise asked its own relationship managers whether they still identified with the results of the stakeholders dialogue 2013. After all, they are regularly in contact with various stakeholders. It turned out that there were few shifts: a few new topics emerged this time. Thus, shareholders named the proposed decision that the Cabinet took on 17 January 2014, concerning production from the Groningen Gas Field, as being an important subject. And in the framework of supply chain responsibility and security of supply, the earthquakes in Groningen and the tense situation in Russia and the Ukraine were also brought up. 

Based on the results of the stakeholder dialogue, GasTerra has accentuated the previously formulated objectives for each of the three G’s (Gas, Green and Groningen). These objectives have been linked, through a CSR matrix, to the so-called material affairs which the stakeholders and GasTerra find important. Since 2013, GasTerra has integrated the CSR matrix and the associated activities into the Business Plan. As a result, there is no longer a question of separate GasTerra and CSR policies. The monitoring of the progress of these aims is thus also included in the regular reporting cycle. The formulated objectives per material topic recur in the sections Gas, Green and Groningen on this website. 

CSR matrix

CSR matrix
  Material topics Financial results / impact of the benefits of natural gas Position of gas Compliance Responsible supply chain management upstream Education
  CSR main objectives          
Gas 1 Contributions to benefits of natural gas X        
Gas 2 Develop commercially attractive products X X      
Gas 3 Ensure security of supply for customers in compliance with the standards in the market and with legislation X   X X  
Gas 4 Promoting gas as a relevant fuel in the energy mix of the future X X      
Gas 5 Compliance with external legislation and regulations and internal codes of conduct and procedures     X    
             
Green 1 Promoting the efficient use of gas   X      
Green 2 Disseminating knowledge about making the energy supply more sustainable, for a better understanding of the role of natural gas in the energy transition   X     X
Green 3 Promoting sustainable business operations X X      
             
Groningen 1 Establishing the knowledge base par excellence on making the energy supply sustainable in Groningen   X     X
Groningen 2 Having GasTerra actively and visibly participate in the Groningen community   X     X

Material topics

The stakeholder dialogue 2013 and the update in 2014, together with GasTerra’s vision, have led to the following materiality matrix:

1. GasTerra’s CSR vision GasTerra finds not only the results important, but also the context in which they come about. On the basis of that vision, the enterprise gives substance to CSR.
2. Financial results GasTerra's core business is the procurement and sale of natural gas. GasTerra endeavours to maximise the value of Dutch natural gas. This is expressed in the agreements concluded with the customers.
3. Benefits of natural gas GasTerra makes an important economic social contribution through the procurement and sale of a large proportion of the natural gas produced in the Netherlands. The scale of the benefits of natural gas is made known by the government.
4. Energy price developments Energy prices are an important social theme. These prices are determined by the market, by taxes and by levies. GasTerra principally supplies the wholesale market, which in the Netherlands is determined by TTF (Titled Transfer Facility) prices. The prices on TTF come about in accordance with the principle of supply and demand. As regards export contracts, these can usually be renegotiated every three years. The basis of such renegotiations differs per contract.
5. Coal/gas competition Despite the current developments, natural gas remains the ultimate transition fuel. Presently, the European market frequently chooses to use the cheaper coal as a fuel for generating electricity. Gas-fired power stations are consequently deployed at minimum capacity or sometimes even decommissioned entirely. This is undesirable from the environmental perspective, because the burning of coal releases far higher levels of CO2, making it more difficult to achieve the climate objectives.
6. Position of gas GasTerra devotes itself to gas advocacy in order thus to reinforce the position of gas in relation to competing fuels, and to emphasise the role of gas in the energy transition process.
7. (more) Sustainable products GasTerra actively contributes to making the Dutch energy supply sustainable by offering products which fit in with the needs of producers, who also supply sustainable energy. An example of this is the trading in green gas.
8. Education (sharing of energy knowledge) Knowledge and education enable the energy sector and society to find answers to current and future energy-related issues. GasTerra sees it as its duty to help spread and deepen this knowledge, and to support educational activities in this sphere.
9. Efficient gas applications GasTerra supports the development and market introduction of innovative gas applications. With its expertise and financial support, GasTerra actively contributes to the development and introduction of new energy-related technologies. Examples of this are Fuel Cells and High-Efficiency Eco-Boilers. In addition, GasTerra, together with the Noordelijke Ontwikkelingsmaatschappij, is involved in fuel cell field tests in Veenkoloniën, Heerhugowaard and on Ameland.
10. Security of delivery (short term) GasTerra accepts its responsibility of ensuring that, within contractual limits, its customers have sufficient natural gas at their disposal at all times during the year.
11. Security of delivery (short term) GasTerra ensures that it can meet its (long-term) gas-supply commitments.
12. Internal business operations / compliance GasTerra occupies an important position in the gas-trading market. The enterprise has an internal compliance policy, in which it actively checks that all employees adhere scrupulously to the regulations relating to competition, such as the cartel prohibition and the ban on abuse of a dominant position, and that they comply with other regulations that are applicable to GasTerra.
13. Transparency GasTerra wants to communicate as clearly and openly as possible about its activities and management objectives, without however harming its commercial and other interests (including privacy).
14. Personnel and organisation GasTerra deems it important that its employees are satisfied as regards their work and opportunities. So, an employee satisfaction survey is regularly conducted. GasTerra is striving towards a balanced personnel structure and towards the equal treatment of every employee. GasTerra invests in career development. Personal health and safety have top priority at GasTerra.
15. Sponsorship GasTerra has an extensive sponsorship programme. The largest part of GasTerra’s contribution is expended on activities and institutions that play an active role in the Groningen region. In addition, GasTerra also contributes through the sharing of knowledge and resources with the local community.
16. Sustainable procurement / internal footprint With regard to requests for quotations, GasTerra pays attention not only to price and quality, but also to the “CSR score” of the potential supplier. Depending on the particular request quotation, specific questions are asked about the company’s CSR Policies. GasTerra strives to keep the burden on the environment caused by its operations as small as possible, among other things by restricting the consumption of electricity, gas, water and paper as much as possible.
17. Footprint chain Within the framework of its CSR policies, GasTerra has conducted studies into the ‘footprint’ of gas procurement. From these, it emerged that Dutch gas is extracted in accordance with the highest international standards and is transported over short distances. Therefore, gas produced in the Netherlands has a smaller ‘footprint’ than gas which Europe imports from other countries.
18. Responsible supply chain management upstream (among other things, shale gas) GasTerra trades in natural gas. Principally, Dutch natural gas, and additionally, natural gas from Norway and Russia in particular. Supply chain management is understood to mean all activities, from extraction to consumption of natural gas. In this respect, GasTerra is responsible for the trading part. Production companies are responsible for the extraction, network managers for transport, and users for the consumption. The division of responsibilities in the chain is contractually determined, and parties can only point out to each other the non-fulfilment of contractual commitments. GasTerra refrains from introducing political or social discussions, for example, into the contractual relationships that GasTerra has with its suppliers but also with its customers. Given the potentially large economic value of shale gas, GasTerra is an advocate of thorough research into the possibilities of extracting shale gas. Social support and safe extraction techniques are preconditions for potential extraction.
19. Responsible supply chain management downstream GasTerra understands responsible supply chain management to be the support of customers in the resolution of energy issues.
20. HSE (Health, Safety, Environment) Personal health and safety of employees and service providers has top priority at GasTerra.
21. CSR banking Banks play an important role in social intercourse and, in their role as investors and product developers, can stimulate a sustainable economy. GasTerra, in the choice of a bank (as a provider of services to GasTerra) should be able to opt for a bank which stimulates a sustainable economy.

In the matrix, the topic CSR banking was still included in 2014. However, it scores so low that it will no longer be discussed in the stakeholder dialogue 2015. In addition, the Energy Academy Europe (EAE) has been merged with Education, since the EAE is an educational institution. The material topics financial results (2), position of gas (6), compliance (12), responsible supply chain management upstream (18) and education (8) are indicated in white in the above matrix. In the Annual Report for 2013, security of supply was one of the material topics, on account of the importance that our stakeholders place on being able to meet the demand for gas in north-western Europe at all times. GasTerra’s role in this is however confined to fulfilling contractual obligations. Therefore, GasTerra has chosen not to designate security of supply as material in the Annual Report for 2014. However, the theme is dealt with in connection with the restriction of production in the Groningen Gas Field and the conflict between Russia and the Ukraine, respectively in the components Market Trend and Supply chain management.

Based on the materiality index, GasTerra has designated five material topics within the pillars Gas, Green and Groningen. Material topics are topics that are important for the enterprise and the stakeholders. The G4 Guidelines prescribe that organisations should determine material topics on the basis of the stakeholder analysis, on reporting in the media and on important internal topics. 

1. Financial results (pillar: Gas)

Obviously, the financial results take centre place in the Annual Report, in view of our core activity: the purchasing and sale of natural gas. This material topic falls entirely within GasTerra’s responsibilities. An important point for attention in 2014 was value maximisation of Dutch natural gas within the production ceiling fixed by the minister for the Groningen Gas Field. The same thing applied to the renegotiation of long-term purchasing and sales contracts. Described in the section Gas is our approach in the light of these topics. 

2. Position of gas (pillars: Gas and Green)

The world is confronted with the challenge to change the present energy mix, based on fossil fuels, into an energy mix based on renewable resources. GasTerra and its stakeholders find it important to have the transition from fossil fuels to renewable resources take place as smoothly as possible, and see an important role for natural gas in this. In view of the different price levels, producers prefer electricity generation using coal, to the detriment of gas. Various north-western European energy companies have already disconnected gas-fired power stations, or have announced that they are going to do this. A worrying development, which has not only been identified by ourselves, but is also mentioned by various stakeholders. Therefore, the position of gas has been designated as a material topic in this Annual Report. Within the value chain, it is in everyone’s interest to improve the position of gas in the energy mix, because gas is the transition fuel par excellence. This is a shared responsibility. GasTerra’s approach in this sphere is described in the section Green. In order to emphasise the importance of gas in the energy transition, we are developing various initiatives. The objective in 2014 was to support at least eight initiatives concerning energy transition. This objective was in fact realised with more than ten initiatives.

3. Compliance (pillar: Gas)

GasTerra is confronted, to an increasing degree, with regulation at the national and European levels. It is of great importance that GasTerra and its employees comply with this legislation and regulations. Our stakeholders think so too. Therefore, GasTerra has designated compliance as a material topic. Compliance with legislation and regulations falls entirely within GasTerra’s responsibility. To ensure compliance, we have drawn up codes of conduct and procedures. Thus, we oblige our employees to follow a compliance course every year. This objective was achieved in 2014. In the section Risk Management, GasTerra’s compliance approach is described. 

4. Responsible supply chain management upstream (pillars: Gas and Green)

From the updated stakeholder dialogue 2013, it emerged that there exists a lack of clarity among stakeholders concerning GasTerra’s role and influence upstream, particularly as regards the earthquake problems and the purchase of gas from Russia. GasTerra’s influence on these topics is very limited. NAM extracts the gas from the Groningen Gas Field and is responsible for the implementation of the proposed decision by the Cabinet concerning the restriction of production from the field. GasTerra is responsible for the trading of this gas. Through the intensive collaboration with NAM and through the continuous monitoring of sales in relation to the expectations, we have ensured that the security of supply in the L-gas market has not been endangered by the production restrictions. In order to provide greater insight into this theme and into the limited influence of GasTerra, supply chain management has been designated as a material topic in this Annual Report. GasTerra’s approach emerges in the section Supply chain management

5. Education (pillar: Green and Groningen)

We are faced with major challenges in order to provide future generations with sufficient, sustainably generated and affordable energy. It is of great importance that we train energy professionals for this, as GasTerra’s stakeholders, too, emphasise. Therefore, GasTerra has designated education as a material topic. GasTerra’s approach is to be found in the section Green. For all parties in the value chain, education is of great importance. We see this as a shared responsibility, and we give substance to it by bringing the energy problem to the attention of schoolchildren and students. One of the objectives in our Business Plan 2014 was the provision of study packages to at least five secondary schools in the North Netherlands. This objective was achieved. 

Future

In 2014, GasTerra altered the process of stakeholder consultation. The enterprise decided to no longer directly consult the stakeholders once a year as regards their view of GasTerra’s CSR Policy. Since October 2014, on the basis of the three G’s (Gas, Green, Groningen), relationship managers of GasTerra take stock, twice a year, of which topics are relevant to stakeholders. Our relationship managers are in contact with our stakeholders on a daily basis, and they therefore know what is going on. This fits in with our policy of letting CSR be an integral part of our business operations. We use the results of the new stakeholder dialogue in drawing up the business objectives for 2015 and for the Annual Report 2015. 

Interview Robbert Slob, Works Council chairman

Interview Robbert Slob, Works Council chairman

Robbert Slob (33) has been involved with the Works Council for the past three years; first as a member and since 2014 as chairman. He has a bachelor's degree in Economics and a master's degree in Operations & Supply Chain Management Robbert has been working with GasTerra since 2005 where, in his capacity as data analyst he is also responsible for the IT architecture. The initial years of his Works Council membership were relatively quiet, but this changed in 2014 with important topics on the agenda such as the GasTerra 2018 reorganisation project.

Read the interview

Interview Robbert Slob, Works Council chairman

I hope that we are given enough time to make GasTerra futureproof

Robbert Slob

How is GasTerra’s works council organised?

"Te works council works in GasTerra’s best interests. e held elections in 2014, wherebyseven employees were elected. It is reassuring to see that there were more candidates than positions. With the current seven members we represent more than 200 colleagues."

The Works Council has a statutory task in policy formulation and in taking drastic decisions. Can you give some examples from the past year

“The recruitment policy was a significant change. GasTerra identified a problem in the personnel file. Many of the staff are employed on a permanent basis and the outflow percentage has been low for years now. This is positive since it implies that GasTerra is a good employer. The flip side, however, is that the organisation does not offer much flexibility. New employees are almost always hired on a fixed-term contract. In the past, this used to be extended on good performance and then often converted into an open-ended contract. That has changed now. In 2014, the Works Council agreed to a proposal to employ new staff with a fixed-term contract via payrolling. To this end, GasTerra outsourced the formal employment practices to an external party, which hires the employee.The advantage of payrolling isthat thi offers GasTerra the desired flexibility.”

Do you not think that this policy will lead to a loss of crucial knowledge

“That’s an important point. You invest a number of years in someone and then they leave the organisation. But what do you consider important as an organisation? Preserving knowledge? GasTerra considers this to be important, but not the most important point. In implementing this policy, the company wants to give starters the opportunity to gain work experience."

As a Works Council, what do you think of that

“We understand the employer’s dilemma, but we feel sorry for the people that want to stay here. For example, we’ve noticed that staff that came in about two years ago go through the transition to this new policy, while they were still under the impression that they would be given an open-ended contract. The course has changed. Employees thought 'if I perform well, I’ll get a permanent contract.' That is no longer the case. With this new recruitment policy, the Works Council focused on the need for open and transparent communication oriented towards new employees. We therefore included a provision in the policy that new employees will be told whether their contracts will be extended six months before their contracts end. It may well still be possible that GasTerra offers employees an open-ended contract, but this is not likely to happen."

Another development that is included in the annual report is the GasTerra 2018 reorganisation project. Moreover, the organisation is looking into what GasTerra can do to remain a (financially) healthy company in the future. What is the Works Council’s role in this process

“These are uncertain times for GasTerra’s employees. The changing market conditions and the structural decrease in our sales volumes compel the company to take a critical look at the organisation. How can we ensure that we are also able to maximise the value of the Dutch natural gas in the future? In 2014, GasTerra 2018 therefore initiated the formation of three working groups, which are involved respectively with efficiency, commercial processes and the organisation structure and staffing. A steering committee consisting of the Board of Directors decide on the measures to be taken. The Works Council is proactively involved in this process and does not want to wait for a formal request for advice from the Director. All Works Council members actively participate in these working groups to keep track of matters and to influence decisions where possible. In addition to this, I regularly discuss the progress with the head of Personnel and Organisation. This way, we a keep a close track of developments. The results of GasTerra 2018 will be announced in 2015, after which time we expect a formal request for advice.”

As chairman of the Works Council, what do you consider important in this project

“Openness, transparency and a careful process. I’ve noticed that many of the employees are involved in this project. That’s a positive development. Questions that we, among other things, have to answer: How do we continue to maintain a competitive edge in the current, changing gas market? What sort of structure will the organisation have and, subsequently, how many people do we still need?

I sincerely hope that we are given the time to make GasTerrafutureproo. That means anticipating the changing market conditions and reshaping any negative developments into a positive outcome. And that not only an economic cost-benefit analysis is made, but also that this project incorporates qualitative criteria. Take, for instance, the role that we play in the area of energy transition and green gas. From a commercial point of view, this seems less interesting, but given our ambition to contribute to a prudent energy transition, I think it would be a shame if we were to stop.&rdquo

The Works Council’s task is twofold. It has to represent the general interests of the personnel, while taking the company’s interests into account at the same time. Isn’t that awkward at times

“Yes, this can create difficult situations at times. Our main objective is to represent the interests of GasTerra. With the GasTerra 2018 project, our main and initial focus was on examining how to ensure that this reorganisation project be set up in the appropriate manner. In the meantime, we know the initial results and the concern has shifted to representing the interests of the personnel."

The theme of GasTerra’s annual report is Energizing the future. This is the slogan of GasTerra that represents the vision that natural gas – and likewise GasTerra – plays and will continue to play an important role in the future. What is the Works Council’s take on this

“The Works Council recognises the importance of gas as a transition fuel. We very much appreciate GasTerra’s efforts in this area. It is also obvious that GasTerra will still have vast volumes of gas to market in the coming years. GasTerra staff are highly competent and are well able to anticipate changing market conditions. This is also reflected in the way in which our people have implemented the minister’s decision to produce less gas from the Groningen Gas Field. We have stayed below the 42.5 billion m³ production ceiling. That’s another reason why this slogan ties in well with GasTerra and our vision as a company.&rdquo

What do you think will be the greatest challenges for GasTerra in the coming years

“The biggest challenge is that we cannot trade as much gas in the long term. The assumption is that a smaller gas portfolio and a smaller work force go hand in hand. That is one of the reasons why we initiated GasTerra 2018 now. We have to anticipate these changing conditions. I am convinced that we will be able to do this with a smaller organisation. We are now faced with the question as to how. Certain departments are under pressure and I hope that we will be given the time to settle this matter in customary GasTerra fashion. We also recognise that the production ceiling requires creativity of our employees in continuing to carry out our mission ‘maximising the value of the Dutch natural gas’. However, I firmly believe that we can achieve this together in the coming years. It is evident from the past year that GasTerra staff have excellent anticipation skills."