The 2012/11/08 at 09:20
Making hot water a heating and electricity source – this is the mission of CFG Services (Compagnie Française de Géothermie), a company that detects and operates aquifers and potential underground zones in this domain, in France as well as overseas. The CFG is a subsidiary of the BRGM (Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières or the Geological and Mining Research Bureau), one of France’s key public establishments in the Earth sciences.
CFG Services was established in 1985. Its work consists in directly using the heat of subterranean water, mainly for urban heating. “The heart of our activity is what is known as the geothermal loop, that consists in intervening from the extraction of the resource underground, up to the subterranean reinjection, via the supply of hot water or vapour recuperated in surface installations,” explains Jean-Claude Guillaneau, President of CFG Services, International Manager at BRGM and a French Foreign Trade Adviser. “In the Paris region, 150,000 dwellings rely on geothermal heating. We intervene in half of these cases. Water used has a temperature of 60 to 80 degrees and it is found 2,000 metres underground.” This activity implies significant investments in drilling and maintenance.
The second aspect of the company’s offer is geothermal electricity production. CFG Services is a major showcase of France’s commitment in this domain. In 2003, it set up a 20-megawatt installation in Indonesia – a project that is a reference for other big clients.
“For several years now, we have witnessed a renaissance in interest in renewable energies, reflected by the recent projects we carried out near Orly and Marne La Vallée,” enthuses Jean-Claude Guillaneau. “Before this, for around 20 years, nw new well had been drilled in the Paris region.” Clients may be local authorities just as they may be businesses. The use of underground heat interests the industrial domain for example, namely food processing. Unlike other players in the field, CFG Services is highly specialised. Geothermics are its sole activity, and clients benefit from its long experience in this domain as well as impeccable technical mastery. “When we re-inject warm water deep underground, the latter should not contaminate subterranean resources. To carry out these operations smoothly, procedures require a great knowledge of the discipline », illustrates Jean-Claude Guillaneau.
The fact that it is backed up by the BRGM group allows CFG Services to have access to the studies of nearly 1,000 geoscience researchers in a multitude of sectors such as geology and hydrogeology. In this way, the offer remains at the cutting edge of this domain. The international expansion of CFG Services is largely facilitated by its experience and savoir-faire.
While the bulk of its activity is focused on France, it is also involved in major projects beyond the French borders, for example in China and in Russia. “We now have several offers concerning East Africa. There is intense underground magma activity in this global region. Kenya, Ethiopia and Rwanda represent very significant potential,” explains Jean-Claude Guillaneau. “For now, only Kenya exploits this energy resource. Other projects are preparing to see the light of day in Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Vietnam and Cambodia. In all these countries, we have partnerships and offers at different stages of maturation.” Promising regions also include Latin American and the Caribbean. The island of Dominica, located between Martinique and Guadeloupe, also presents strong geothermal potential. “We think we can set up significant electricity production here capable of supplying Guadeloupe and Martinique by underwater cables,” he continues. “Calls for tenders are already underway.”
All of these projects imply high budgets in terms of R&D. Many operations are carried out jointly by the BRGM and CFG Services. No exclusivity exists to separate the two organisations; instead they enjoy strong synergies endowing the company with a central position in this domain.