ÉS committed on Wissembourg geothermal project and efforts on lithium extraction

ÉS committed on Wissembourg geothermal project and efforts on lithium extraction Well at Rittershoffen geothermal site in Alsace, France (source: ThinkGeoEnergy)
Alexander Richter 20 Dec 2020

Having withdrawn from seeking drilling permits for two planned geothermal projects, utility ÉS plans to focus on its Wissembourg geothermal project. It will also push forward on Lithium extraction from geothermal at its Rittershofen site.

Before the local prefect announced a suspension of current geothermal projects in Alsace earlier this month, local utility Électricité de Strasbourg (ÉS) had taken the initiative to withdraw its request for authorization of mining works for the Hoffen and Hunspach power plants. “We took into account the question of acceptability of the project. This is an important issue and the conditions were not met ”, explains Bernard Kempf, director of development and external relations at ÉS, contacted before the announcements of the prefect. Residents, especially in Hoffen, have been expressing their concerns about this project for nearly a year.and had formed a collective. The various successive seismic events have accentuated their concerns and this Tuesday, December 8, the collective, also making arguments of respect for the environment and heritage, has also sent a letter to the Prefect of Bas-Rhin asking him to not to authorize deep drilling in the territories of its jurisdiction. ÉS had taken the initiative and had not waited for this letter to withdraw his request. The Strasbourg energy supplier had also met the mayors of the municipalities of Hoffen and Hunspach on December 2 to inform them of this decision.

The Wissembourg project as a priority

However, ÉS maintains its desire to build a deep geothermal power plant in Wissembourg – the request for authorization for mining works has been filed. “It’s our priority,” says Bernard Kempf, who explains that ÉS could not carry out all these projects at the same time anyway. The withdrawal of the mining work permit application does not mean that the will to build other power plants has dried up at ÉS, “but if these projects can be done, they will be done much later” and the location future power plants can be reviewed.

“We keep the will to serve the territory and contribute to its economic development. We want to work with the communities, and the support of the population, as we have done so far, ”adds Bernard Kempf.

The operator therefore hopes to be able to complete this project. And if ÉS refuses to comment on recent seismic events, Bernard Kempf is well aware that “an additional protocol will undoubtedly be imposed by the State and Dréal [regional directorate of the Environment, Planning and of Housing], which is quite legitimate. “He also recalls that the drilling and tests carried out at Rittershoffen – where the wells were drilled to a depth of 2,600 meters – had caused only” very weak “seismic events not perceptible by man, and” that ‘there was none at all during the second drilling. This plant brings satisfaction to the customer [the Roquette company from Beinheim, which uses heat in its production process]. ”

The lithium transformation process tested at Rittershoffen

It is also this Rittershoffen plant that was finally chosen to install, last week, the demonstrator allowing the testing of a process, developed within the framework of the Eugeli project (*), for the transformation of lithium chloride, present in the northern Alsatian subsoil, in lithium carbonate. “This site was preferred to that of Soultz-sous-Forets because the production capacity of this plant is greater”, explains Bernard Kempf. The industrialization of this process is scheduled for 2025.

*The Eugéli project (European geothermal brines lithium) is led by Euramet, a large global lithium producer based in Trappes. It brings together several partners including ÉS, the geological and mining research office, IFP energies nouvelles, BASF, EIFER (an EDF subsidiary in Germany) and the PSA group.