Tremors around geothermal plant in France put spotlight on safety

Posted: April 13, 2021 by oldbrew in Earthquakes, Energy, geothermal, net zero, Uncertainty
Tags:
illkirch 1er forage de géothermie

Image credit: Jérôme Dorkel – Eurométropole de Strasbourg

Home owner insurance claims are pouring in. The local ‘net zero’ emissions plan is in serious trouble.
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A series of minor human-induced earthquakes in the area of Strasbourg, eastern France, last December has reminded local inhabitants about the safety of geothermal energy, highlighting the challenges faced by deep drilling technology, says Euractiv.

In December, the area around Strasbourg was shaken by several induced tremors, including one of 3.5 magnitude, after a geothermal company carrying out tests injected high-pressure water into the ground earlier in the autumn.

Induced earthquakes – those caused by human activity – had begun since tests started in the Alsace region in October at the geothermal plant operated by Fonroche, a French energy company.

The tremors were directly linked to the starting-up activities of the plant, said the French association of geothermal professionals, the AFPG.

“It appears that seismicity related to deep geothermal in Rhine Basin geologic reservoir is mainly associated with testing phases during drilling and starting-up operations,” AFPG said in a statement. “This seismicity is measured and monitored all along the construction and operating phases during which events are generally not felt,” it added.

Fonroche, the company operating the plant, confirmed to AFP that the shock was linked to its activities. In a statement, it said the December episode “could be a continuation of the movements induced by the tests undertaken” in October but was “also taking place in a context of intense seismic activity on the West European ridge for several weeks”.

The Alsace region is prone to natural tremors and has put in place a seismic plan to better map the risks and inform the population.

Several geothermal plants are already operating there, without causing major seismic activity to date. Tests on geothermal plants that use a technology called enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), can cause tremors, but those are controlled and usually don’t go above a level of 2 on the Richter scale.

For the geothermal industry, the tremors in December, which hit a level of 3.5 on the Richter scale, were “exceptional”.

“We see this as an excuse for people to say no to geothermal,” said Sanjeev Kumar, head of policy at the European Geothermal Energy Council (EGEC), an industry body. “For decades, we’ve been going ahead of the curve in terms of how we manage this,” he told EURACTIV.

After the December tremor, the French authorities requested the operator to close the plant. This started a progressive and total shutdown of the geothermal fluid circulation between the 5km-deep boreholes, which caused another 2.8 magnitude earthquake on 10 April.

According to Fonroche, those will stop once the plant is fully operational because the water pressure will be constant.

An investigation is ongoing into how and why the tremors were caused.

Full article here.

Comments
  1. tom0mason says:

    What did they expect?
    They are fracking for hot water.

  2. Roger,

    We took a Viking River Cruise that started at the end of October 2011. We started the cruise in Bern Switzerland. We took a tour there and the guide told us that they started a Geothermal Energy project under Bern, it triggered Earthquakes and they stopped the activity. I do not know how long before we were there that this happened.

    Alex Pope

    On Tue, Apr 13, 2021 at 9:16 AM Tallbloke’s Talkshop wrote:

    > oldbrew posted: ” Home owner insurance claims are pouring in. The local > ‘net zero’ emissions plan is in serious trouble.- – -A series of minor > human-induced earthquakes in the area of Strasbourg, eastern France, last > December has reminded local inhabitants about the safet” >

  3. What did they expect?
    They are fracking for hot water.

    Nope, they are putting water on molten rock and get explosive super heated steam. Did you ever visit Yellowstone in the US?

  4. oldbrew says:

    The Alsace region is prone to natural tremors

    In December, the area around Strasbourg was shaken by several induced tremors, including one of 3.5 magnitude, after a geothermal company carrying out tests injected high-pressure water into the ground earlier in the autumn.

    Were they surprised?

  5. JB says:

    Humanity has always been terrified of Nature’s instabilities. That fear is the lever that the “Elites” use to manipulate social behavior and modulate public opinion.

    Earthquakes are just as unsettling as tornadoes.But there are coping strategies. Some people never develop their “sea legs.”

  6. tom0mason says:

    @ popesclimatetheory (https://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2021/04/13/tremors-around-geothermal-plant-in-france-put-spotlight-on-safety/#comment-165816 )

    From the above ‘euractiv.com’ link, it would appear ‘enhanced geothermal energy’ (EGS) extraction is being used …

    From https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2020/02/the-pros-and-cons-of-enhanced-geothermal-energy-systems/

    Might pace of earthquakes increase with EGS?

    “These faults are going to slip eventually,” said Joern Ole Kaven, a research geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “But EGS can certainly speed up the clock.”

    EGS pumps water in a way similar to hydraulic fracking techniques used to drill for oil and natural gas, but at lower pressures. The water creates a heated underground reservoir which can then be pumped back up to the surface to generate electricity. Enhanced geothermal systems would dramatically expand the number of places capable of producing geothermal energy.

    [my bold]

    Also from https://www.economist.com/business/2014/08/16/hot-rocks

    New “enhanced geothermal systems” (EGS), however, look set to make geothermal a bigger contributor—and potentially as controversial as shale.The industry may dislike the comparison, but EGS is geothermal fracking. Millions of gallons of water and chemicals are injected into mostly vertical wells at relatively high pressure, and the combination of cold-meets-hot, pressure and chemistry shears the deep, hot rock. This creates new “fracture networks” through which water can be pumped, heated and sent back to the surface to generate power.

  7. oldbrew says:

    Second-largest earthquake in modern South Korean history tied to geothermal plant
    Apr. 26, 2018

    The magnitude-5.5 Pohang earthquake, the second largest in the country’s modern history, struck the densely populated region on 15 November 2017, injuring 90 people and causing $52 million in damage. It crumbled walls, cracked roads, and collapsed old buildings. And, according to two studies published today in Science, it is likely the largest earthquake ever to be triggered by enhanced geothermal power.
    . . .
    Perhaps most worrisome, Pohang used a new technique meant to limit earthquake size called “soft stimulation” just a few months before the temblor. Like all enhanced geothermal methods, this technique injects water under pressure to create cracks in the rock, but does it in limited, gentle ways to limit earthquake size.

    https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/04/second-largest-earthquake-modern-south-korean-history-tied-geothermal-plant
    – – –
    ‘Enhanced’ geothermal is a gamble.

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