After the successful exploration by drilling of the Soultz EGS reservoir, we are
now facing the surface development in terms of juridical and administrative
In France deep geothermal energy projects are ruled by the Mining Code.
Therefore, they are, from the administrative point of view, treated as coal or oil
In order to start a deep geothermal project, it is necessary to ask for
a “Geothermal Research Exclusive Permit” (PER in French), which is then put in
a competitive call by national authorities. The PER determines an area within
which the permit holder has exclusive rights of prospecting, in exchange of
which he is committed to realize a certain amount of works within 5 years.
Then, so as to begin to drill a borehole, it is necessary to send to authorities
a “request for exploration workings beginning permit” (DOTEX in French), which
is subjected to a public inquiry among the population.
Once the geothermal field has been discovered, an exploitation concession has
to be requested to get the exploitation rights. It defines the conditions which
the concession holder is subjected to, so as to be able to benefit from the
discovered geothermal field.
The French law distinguishes high temperature geothermal resources (≥ 150°
C) and low temperature geothermal resources (< 150°C). For the latter,
procedures are more simple.
Moreover, if, as in the case of the Soultz project, it is necessary to use binary
fluids (like isobutane), a specific authorization has to be asked for exploitation,
which is called “Plant listed for environmental conservation” (ICPE in French).
Depending on the case, this could also be subjected to a public inquiry.
Consequently, the administrative study of all the above procedures could last
up to 3 years. And this is in the best case, that is, without any opposition or