It’s an existential question in France: When is fracking not fracking?
The country is pushing ahead with plans to harness geothermal energy from smoldering rock deep in the earth’s crust using drilling methods the oil industry says are like hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which France outlawed in 2011.
Environment Minister Delphine Batho awarded two geothermal exploration licenses in February and said 18 more are in review. Some will tap into volcanic heat by permeating rock in a process called “stimulation” that blasts acid and water into fissures to release heat. That may be seen as similar to how U.S. explorers fracture fossil fuels from shale rock with chemical cocktails.
France’s Socialist-led government grew enthusiastic about generating power from underground heat reservoirs as President Francois Hollande pledged to lower dependence on atomic power. The country banned fracking for its “serious health and environmental risks,” and canceled shale exploration licenses held by Total SA (FP), its biggest oil company, and U.S.-based Schuepbach Energy LLC. The French oil-industry lobby disagrees.
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