How did the geothermal power station in Strasbourg tremble?


SHAKES – Several seismic episodes have been recorded in the Strasbourg area in recent weeks. Behind the tremors, there is the geothermal sector. Statement.

“Did you feel that too?”, A lady asks her neighbors. In Strasbourg area, tremors replaced the usual gossip. This Friday morning, the residents of the east were again awakened by earthquakes of low magnitude – or 3.5 on the Richter scale.. “I do not have a crack”, Told, relieved, one of the inhabitants. If one does not need to regret any significant damage, the scenario repeated itself regularly for months. In two weeks, around ten tremors were recorded.

A more common phenomenon because the origin is quite rare. Behind the tremors, it was questioned the Fanrochche geothermal power plant in Wendenheim – still under construction. This huge building, which is distinguished by two huge red tubes, received the drilling permit in 2016. Be objective? Provide the equivalent of 10,000 homes with electricity and 26,000 with direct heat.

To understand how the geothermal power plant could have caused an earthquake, you should start with to understand how it works. When we reach the basement, we see a first well that descends five kilometers underground to draw natural hot water. The heat is then converted into electricity and the cooled water is rejected in the basement. It is here, at the bottom of the second sound, that the epicenter of the earthquake was detected. “It’s because we set a liquid pressure higher than what the rock can withstand that we generate the seismicity”, Explains Jerome Vergne, School Physicist and Observatory of Earth Sciences (University of Strasbourg).

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So much for the general statement. Besides the earthquakes caused by geothermal power plants are quite minimal in general, this is the most strongly recorded in France. The other reason for these tremors is the novelty of the geothermal power station. “When we arrive at a site, we can know the type of event in the beginning. We must take the time to study the site and know its characteristics to adapt”, Underlines Jean-Philippe Soulé, Managing Director of Fonroche Géothermie. According to him, the technology is therefore reliable, but it needs some adjustments.

However, this is not the first time the eyes have turned to the plant, which was restrained from reduced activity in November 2019 following an earthquake of magnitude 3.1. At the time, it was argued that geothermal activities could be the origin of the earthquakes, a charge that Jean-Philippe Soul re-refuted. But after the quake on Friday morning, the tone changed. This time, Fonroche takes responsibility, but it’s too much for the residents and elected officials.

This is not a geothermal process– Michel Kannengieser, Mayor of La Wantzenau

The Bas-Rhin prefecture preferred to focus on security. This ordered to stop the activity of the plant, the time for an administrative investigation. The process will take about a month, a spokesman for Fonroche said. “You must be aware that the two wells are near, on the one hand, a Sevoso 2 site (dangerous industrial installations) and on the other hand, a dense residential area”, Emphasizes Michèle Kannengieser, Mayor (DVD) of La Wantzenau. Who adds: “This is not a process of geothermal energy, but we are in the presence of a dysfunctional sound.”

A pillar of energy transition

On the opposition side, elected officials take less tweezers. “Like Jean-Philippe Vetter, president of the Les Républicains group, who is asking us to stop.”To play magician’s apprentice “. He denounced “Ideological blindness” Elected ecologists in favor of the geothermal power plant. Currently, a abandonment of the project is not on the agenda. The closure of the plant would be a blow to the geothermal energy of Fonroche, which invested € 90 million in the equipment.

But this new earthquake may question the principle of the pillar of energy transition in Alsace. In the Strasbourg region, coffee has invested in the technology of the previous term, hoping to achieve energy self-sufficient objectives by 2030. In total, France has around forty geothermal power plants, “Deep” Is still underdeveloped, with only three plants in operation.

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