franc-comtois exploration license

Valorise locaaly the strategic resources of franche-comté

Avant-Monts franc-comtois in brief

Boreholes drilled in the 50s and 60s revealed that the Jura foothills zone contained a gas mix rich in non-combustible gases, potentially including helium. The bibliographical research and the results of preliminary field measurements that 45-8 ENERGY carried out proved to be very encouraging, leading the company to file a Exclusive Research Permit (PER) for an area in the North-West of the Doubs (25).

Obtained in August 2022, the Avant-Monts franc-comtois exploration permit covers an area of 306sqkm, including 58 municipalities, and concerns helium and associated resources (nitrogen, carbon dioxide and potentially natural hydrogen). 

The objective of the next 5 years is to deepen our geological knowledge of the area and to carry out field measurements in order to confirm or deny the helium potential of the area and if a project to valorize the gas mix is technically and economically viable.sqkm

Discover the Avant-Monts franc-comtois project


The Avant-Monts franc-comtois project

Following bibliographic research and encouraging preliminary field measurements, 45-8 ENERGY is considering that the Jura foreland area, located in the Doubs department (25), is a promising prospective area for helium, in association with non-combustible gases (nitrogen and/or carbon dioxide) highlighted by several drillings carried out in the 1960s and 1970s.

In order to deepen the geological knowledge of the area and precise the helium and carbon dioxide contents, 45-8 ENERGY applied for the Avant-Monts franc-comtois exploration license to the Ministry of Ecological Transition, a 306sqkm area located in the North-West of the Doubs.

This license was awarded by decree signed by the Minister for the Economy, Finance and Industrial and Digital Sovereignty and the Minister for Energy Transition dated August 5, 2022.

License perimeter is voluntarily large in order to comprehensively understand the geology of this particular region with the objective to reduce it at later stage once most promising areas have been spotted. If geological hypotheses are validated, a joint valorisation of helium, carbon dioxide and any other valuable resource is targeted in order to produce them and supply locally and in an eco-responsible way two high demand markets, through small size production units.

The license was awarded for a period of 5 years in order to progressively deploy the exploration program on the entire permit.


Avant-Monts franc-comtois exploration license objectives

Deepen our geological knowledge of the area

Assess the origin and the migration paths of the gases to locate the most promising areas.

Demonstrate the technical and economic viability of a joint gases valuation project in the area

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Size of the exploration area
Concerned municipalities
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Validity of the exploration license


The gases of the area

Helium is a strategic resource. 100% of the helium consumed in Western Europe is imported outside its borders. It is necessary to develop our European sovereignty and no longer be dependent on long-distance imports, which are complex, expensive, subject to geopolitical risks and have a high carbon footprint.

High levels of helium have been reported in several wells within a short distance of the Avant-Monts franc comtois exploration license, in similar geological contexts. In addition, our first field measurements have confirmed the significant presence of helium in the area.

> More about helium


High nitrogen content has been encountered in several boreholes in the area. Nitrogen is the most abundant element in the Earth's atmosphere ; it represents about 78% of its composition). Because of the abundance of nitrogen in the air, its attractiveness is limited and its economix use unlikely. However, its release into the atmosphere does not represent any risk for the population (inert, odorless, invisible) or the environment (does not contribute to the greenhouse effect, already present in high concentrations in the Earth's atmosphere).

Helium and nitrogen have a strong affinity, which is why it is very likely that a fraction of helium is associated with it.


Carbon dioxide is an essential gas for the food, cryogenic and fire-fighting industries. The supply of carbon dioxide is compromised in Western Europe, despite its constantly increasing content in the atmosphere. The short circuit valorization of carbon dioxide is therefore a real solution enabling to secure supply in France. An even more eco-responsible and local valorization is also envisaged: the recycling of waste such as steel slage or brines, which could be transformed into construction materials (synthetic carbonates).

Carbon dioxide has been found in association with nitrogen in many wells in the sector.

Carbon dioxide

Several nearby wells in similar geological formations have reported presence (2% to 5%) of natural hydrogen fraction in combination with the main gas. A similar fraction of natural hydrogen is therefore possible in the Avant-Monts franc comtois exploration license.

This resource, even if present at the level of a few percent, could easily be valuated and could contribute to a carbon-free hydrogen used 100% locally (the urban area of Besançon being the ideal outlet).

> More about natural hydrogen


Good to know

Helium, nitrogen and carbon dioxide are not combustible gases, they present no risk of explosion or fire.


The permit area

The exploration license area covers 306sqkm of the Doubs department, spread over 58 municipalities:

Audeux, Avanne-Aveney, Berthelange, Besançon*, Beure, Bonnay, Braillans, Burgille, Busy, Chalezeule, Champagney, Champvans-les-Moulins, Châtillon-le-Duc, Chaucenne, Chemaudin et Vaux, Corcelles-Ferrières, Corcondray, Courchapon, Dannemarie-sur-Crète, Decevey, Ecole-Valentin, Etrabonne, Ferrières-les-Bois, Fontain, Franey, Franois, Geneuille, Grandfontaine, Jallerange, Lantenne-Vertière, Larnod, Lavernay, Le Moutherot, Les Auxons, Mazerolles-le-Salin, Mercey-le-Grand, Mérey-Vieilley, Miserey-Salines, Montferrand-le-Château, Noironte, Pelousey, Pirey, Placey, Pouilley-Français, Pouilley-les-Vignes, Pugey, Rancenay, Recologne, Ruffey-le-Château, Saint-Vit, Serre-les-Sapins, Tallenay, Thise, Thoraise, Torpes, Velesmes-Essarts, Vieilley et Villers-Buzon.

* The Besançon urban area is not directly targeted. It has been included in application permiter for the sake of integration and communication with all stakeholders. This urban and economix area represents in particular a possible outlet for the resources that can be produced.


The program of the work

The planned work program is of limited extent and will have a very limited and strictly temporary impact on the environment. It mainly involves data acquisitions carried out with portable, indirect equipment, aiming at caracterising the subsurface without any risk for the surrounding populations.


Key steps

Application for an exploration license
Granting of the Avant-Monts franc-comtois exploration license
July - October
Data acquisition (gravimetry, electromagnetism, ERT, passive seismic, 2D seismic reflection, etc.)


What's next?

The work program of the Avant-Monts franc-comtois exploration license aims at assessing the feasibility of a gas production project.

What happens next depends on the results. If the results are encouraging, a first production phase will be launched, as it has been done on the Fonts-Bouillants license in the French Nièvre department.

If this pilot then validates the viability of long-term production, the final infrastructures will be of small size, equivalent or even smaller than an agricultural warehouse. It will reconcile the industrial activity and the preservation of the environment through an innovative co-development, the use of state of the art eco-responsible technology and, if the area allows it, the rehabilitation of an old industrial site.

A supported project

45-8 ENERGY has received €2,88M in funding as part of the France 2030 investment plan’s “Russian, Belarusian or Ukrainian dependence” call for expressions of interest. 45-8 ENERGY’s proposal to produce helium in France would contribute to national sovereignty, a highly topical issue given that helium’s position as a strategic resource has been reinforced in the European Union’s latest list of critical resources, published in early 2023.

An environmentally engaged project

The project managed by 45-8 ENERGY aims to be eco-committed and a vector of ecological transition. In particular, French companies could thus be supplied with helium through a short and simple supply chain, thus reducing European dependency on long-distance importations carrying a heavy carbon footprint. 

Carbon dioxide which could also be associated with helium in the gas mix might be managed in an eco-responsible way through mineralization. It would enable the recycling of steel slags and brines in the region, which are being accumulated and whose storage represents a large footprint on the ground, into new construction materials. 

Finally, the potential fraction of natural hydrogen can easily be used and thus participate in the production of local and 100% carbon-free hydrogen, at a time when 95% of the produced hydrogen comes from steam reforming of hydrocarbons, a process that emits a lot of greenhouse gases.

Find out more about 45-8 ENERGY