Carbon storage – a prospective subsurface use: BRGM research in France

This post is part of the GeoConnect³d blog.

Dear reader, we are Isaline Gravaud and Fernanda Veloso, from BRGM, the French partner in GeoConnect³d. We would like in this post to speak about carbon storage, as it is our main field of activity and share with you recent news about CO2 storage research at BRGM.

One of the topic GeoConnect³d project is dealing with is subsurface management. Indeed, in the context of energy transition, the use of the subsurface is expected to increase with new types of subsurface uses adding to the existing ones. Carbon storage is one of these prospective uses.

What is carbon storage?

Carbon storage belongs to the Carbon Capture, Use and Storage (CCUS) chain. This technology aims to reduce carbon emissions in the atmosphere by capturing CO2 at high emission sites (steel plants, power plants, cement plants, etc.) and either valorising it, either storing it underground so that it remains permanently trapped. Thus, we speak about geological storage of carbon. Captured CO2 is injected into deep rock formations, typically depleted hydrocarbon reservoirs or deep saline aquifers. The CO2 storage sites are chosen for:

  • their porosity and permeability to ensure effective storage capacity,
  • the presence of an overlying impermeable caprock (e.g. clays) to prevent the CO2 to migrate up to the surface or other aquifers,
  • their depth, as over 800 m deep, CO2 is under a dense phase (supercritical) which is a volume gain. Morever, at these depths, aquifers water is no longer drinkable because of its high salinity.

What is the state of development of CCUS technology?

CCUS is recognised as a key, proven technology. According to the GCCSI, which tracks CCS projects around the world, there are 26 CCS facilities currently in operation and around 40 Mt of CO2 is stored every year.

However, the development of this technology in Europe has been slow in the last years. The European Union’s (EU) stated ambition was to have up to twelve operating CCS projects by 2015, but this goal was not accomplished (Kapetaki and Scowcroft 2017). Only two CCS projects are currently operating in the European Economic Area, Sleipner (since 1996) and Snøhvit (since 2008), both located in Norway.

While slow progress is due to several economic, regulatory and technical challenges, negative perceptions of CCS projects in several nations also played a role (Oltra et al. 2012; Anderson et al. 2012).

Texte de remplacement généré par une machine :
Facility Category Commercial ccs 
O mapbox 
Figure 1: Operational commercial CCS Facilities around the world from GCCSI Database “CO2STORE” (consulted in January 2021)

What is the status of CCUS in France?

Currently, there is no carbon geological storage operation in France. The only project which took place on the French territory was the Lacq Pilot (near Pau, Southern France), now completed, which implemented to whole carbon capture/transport/storage chain and injected approximately 50 kt of CO2 over 3 years in a deep depleted gas reservoir (Rousse, 4.5 km deep). The other past pilot at Le Havre power plant (2013-2014) only concerned the capture phase. Also focusing on capture, the DMXTM Demonstration in Dunkirk project is in advanced development and should be operational by 2022 to capture carbon from the ArcelorMittal steelworks site in Dunkirk. This project considers transporting the captured CO2 to geological storage sites in the North Sea.

However, storage capacities in France is an increasingly frequent question, which BRGM research aims to answer. Metropolitan France presents 3 main sedimentary basins (Figure 2) which contain depleted reservoirs, but overall deep aquifers suitable for CO2 storage. Past studies provided a first estimate of storage capacities at national level (METSTOR, GeoCapacity). Since then, other research projects, at basin scale, led studies that increased knowledge of potential storage capacities. Especially in the Paris basin (France Nord and ULCOS TGR-BF), also in the Marseille area (VASCO).

Figure 2: Main sedimentary basin in France and first estimates of capacities for CO2 storage.
Figure 3: STRATEGY CCUS promising regions

In the European H2020 STRATEGY CCUS project, started in 2019 and coordinated by BRGM, we gathered all existing data on storage capacities in the 8 studied regions (Figure 3), compiled and harmonised them and developed a common methodology to evaluate the capacities (Cavanagh 2020, Carneiro & Mesquita 2020, Veloso 2021). Besides, we collected data on carbon emissions sites and transport options, to prepare the forthcoming elaboration of CCUS development plans in these regions.

In France, we performed this work for the Paris Basin and the Rhone Valley. The Rhone Valley (Figure 4) – from Lyon to Marseille and Mediterranean Sea – is one of the most promising regions of the project, especially in terms of emission sites as it is a highly industrial region. As far as the Paris Basin is concerned (Figure 5), its aquifers benefit from advanced knowledge, particularly thanks to geothermal activity and former O&G exploitation. The study resulted in an updated storage capacity of 0.085 Gt for Rhone Valley and 0.33 Gt for Paris Basin (Veloso 2021), but also identified lacks in maturity of these resources. In particular, for the Rhone Valley, few data are available, as few studies were carried out in the region so far, and none offshore.

Figure 4: Location of Storage Resources in the Rhone Valley with the location of CO2 emitters
Figure 5: Storage units in Paris Basin STRATEGY CCUS region. Keuper Nord and Keuper Sud squares represent the investigated area for reservoir simulation studies.

BRGM is currently investigating CO2 storage in southern Paris Basin, north of Orléans, in the framework of the CO2SERRE project (see Box), by running simulations to test injectivity and capacity of potential reservoir formation. Besides, and it was a great news to finish year 2020 on a positive touch, we learnt last month that our proposal PilotSTRATEGY will be granted by the European Commission (Call H20202 LC-SC3-NZE-6-2020)! This will allow us, in particular, to carry out a site characterisation in the southern Paris Basin, with a 3D seismic campaign, together with reservoir modelling, risks evaluation and pilot implementation studies. We aim to have everything ready for a storage pilot in the region. We are looking forward to starting the work with our partners. We are very enthusiastic, as we strongly believe that CCUS has a role to play in transition to a renewable society!


Anderson C, Schirmer J, Abjorensen N (2012) Exploring CCS community acceptance and public participation from a human and social capital perspective. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 17: 687-706.

Carneiro, J.F., and Mesquita, P. 2020. Key data for characterising sources, transport options, storage and uses in promising regions. EU H2020 STRATEGY CCUS Project 837754, Report, pp 170.

Cavanagh, AJ, Wilkinson, M and Haszeldine, RS. 2020. Bridging the Gap, Storage Resource Assessment Methodologies, EU H2020 STRATEGY CCUS Project 837754, Report, pp 67.

Kapetaki Z. and Scowcroft J. (2017). Overview of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Demonstration Project Business Models: Risks and Enablers on the Two Sides of the Atlantic. Energy Procedia, Vol. 114, July 2017, Pages 6623-6630,

Oltra C, Upham P, Riesch H, Boso A, Brunsting S, Dütschke E, Lis A (2012) Public responses to CO2 storage sites: Lessons from five European cases. Energy and Environment 23:227-248.

Veloso, F. M. L. 2021. Maturity level and confidence of storage capacities estimates in the promising regions. EU H2020 STRATEGY CCUS Project 837754, Report, pp 125.

For more information on geological CO2 storage technology, see:

Isaline Gravaud & Fernanda Veloso
BRGM – French Geological Survey

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