Is France home to the world’s largest deposit of natural hydrogen?

Lorraine France hydrogen

Natural hydrogen has been the subject of much media attention since the first research permit was granted in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques region (southern France) and President Macron’s announcements. What is the situation in the French Lorraine region? We will tell you more about the Regalor project, which is at the root of all this speculation.

“We can’t let these resources untouched.” During his speech in Toulouse (Southern France), in which he called for greater investment in natural hydrogen, Emmanuel Macron referred to both the Pyrénées-Atlantiques and Lorraine. Lorraine, which borders Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg, is home to “the largest deposit of natural hydrogen in the world,” according to France 3 Grand Est. The French TV channel interviewed two researchers at the GeoRessources laboratory at the University of Lorraine.

From coal bed methane to hydrogen

It was a research project called Regalor that led the scientists down the path of natural hydrogen. The original aim was to study the feasibility of coal bed methane (CBM) exploitation with low carbon impact in Lorraine.. The FDE (Française de l’Énergie) provided the researchers with an experimental site that had already been drilled and equipped at Folschviller, in the Moselle region (eastern France).

As part of this project, researchers have developed a new tool, the SysMoG probe. It can be used to monitor the subsoil from wells with a 6 cm internal diameter. According to the scientists’ calculations, “the deposit in Lorraine could contain up to 46 million tonnes of natural hydrogen, i.e. more than half the world’s current annual production of grey hydrogen.” As a result, the FDE has applied for a research permit. However, the deposit’s potential should be contrasted. For instance, Europe has planned to use 20 millions of green hydrogen a year in 2030 (producing half of it). Consequently, such a deposit will not replace local production or importation of green hydrogen in the long run.

A follow-up to the Regalor project

Thanks to this discovery, the project will be followed up. “We will shortly be launching a “REGALOR II” project in collaboration with the FDE. We would like this programme to start in April 2024 and finish in 2027. Three more years for exploration, estimating resources and inventing the tools for exploitation,” explained Jacques Pironon from the Georessources laboratory on France 3.

The FDE thinks that “natural hydrogen is part of the Group’s development strategy in the H2 ecosystem of the Greater Region (Grand Est, Wallonia, Luxembourg, Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate), with the aim of providing local production of ecologically and economically competitive energy to the inhabitants, industrialists and local authorities of these regions, which are major energy consumers of energy.” This project will also benefit from the future commissioning of the MosaHYc project, supported by GRTgaz and CREOS. The latter will enable hydrogen to be transported via a 100% hydrogen cross-border pipeline,” says the group.

Article written by Laurent Meillaud and translated by Logan King 

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About the author

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Logan King

After an unusual career (3 years in the French army followed by a 3-year degree in Applied Foreign Languages), it was my passion for environmental issues that finally caught up with me and led me to join Seiya Consulting and H2 Today in June 2022. First as an end-of-study internship, then as Marketing & Communication Manager and translator at Hydrogen Today.

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