BRGM oversees France's geothermal projects

BRGM became increasingly interested in renewable energies, understanding the significant potential of geothermal resources. In just ten years, BRGM established itself as a leader in this field across mainland France, its overseas territories, and abroad. Since 1986, more than 300,000 housing units in France have thus been heated using geothermal energy.

Forage géothermique à Creil dans l'Oise, vers 1976. © BRGM.
A geothermal well at Creil in the Oise département (Paris region), around 1976. © BRGM

In 1963, the Radio France building in Paris became one of the first buildings to be heated this way. Water at 27°C was drawn from a depth of 600 m, providing a renewable, pollution-free energy source.

BRGM’s geothermal energy department began working with local authorities, with the support of the Ministry for Industry’s Geothermal Energy Advisory Committee, which insured the first drilling operations against geological risk. It was first assisted by the delegation on new energy sources, and from 1982 by the French agency for energy management (AFME).

BRGM oversees France's geothermal projects

For five years, BRGM worked on a major inventory before embarking on a series of 118 feasibility studies between 1978 and 1984, half of which were based in Île-de-France. Besides promoting the “doublet” system, BRGM’s water department focused its research on using the subsurface as a source of heat, heat storage, and the development of water-source heat pumps, in collaboration with external partners, such as the École des Mines.

In 1976, BRGM implemented its first geothermal programme, with the drilling of four deep wells, providing heat to 4,000 homes in Creil, in the Oise département. 

The main contracts focused on the relatively deep Dogger reservoir in the Paris Basin, which provided access to resources between 55°C and 80°C, and various aquifers in the Aquitaine Basin. Until the end of the 1980s, BRGM supervised and implemented many turnkey projects, such as the heating and air-conditioning of the CGT trade union confederation building in Montreuil and a hot water storage project between cast walls to heat the École Normale Supérieure in Lyon. In less than ten years, BRGM’s initiatives enabled more than 300,000 homes to be heated using geothermal energy.

In 1967–1976, BRGM’s geothermal energy department developed its work internationally in Latin America, East Africa and South-East Asia, among other regions, as well as its high-temperature work in France’s overseas territories. 

After the oil-price slump, almost no new projects were initiated, and a geothermal energy boom was not experienced again until 2007, with new projects in the Paris Basin and the emergence of geothermal heat pumps, leading BRGM to establish a technical centre providing support to businesses and project owners on resource and technology issues.

La pompe d'alimentation d'eau chaude de la centrale géothermique de Creil (Oise, France). © BRGM
The hot water supply pump at the geothermal plant in Creil (Paris region), around 1980.
Back to the chapter