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TOPIC : Measuring, monitoring and controlling the potential risks of subsurface operations related to CCS and unconventional hydrocarbons

Topic identifier: LCE-27-2017
Publication date: 14 October 2015

Types of action: RIA Research and Innovation action
Opening date:
20 September 2016
Deadline: 05 January 2017 17:00:00

Time Zone : (Brussels time)
  Horizon 2020 H2020 website
Pillar: Societal Challenges
Work Programme Year: H2020-2016-2017
Topic Updates
Topic Description
Specific Challenge:

Geo-energy applications such as carbon capture and storage (CCS), the development of unconventional hydrocarbons (in particular shale gas) and to some extent also geothermal operations, can have an impact on the subsurface. Consequently, advanced and cost effective monitoring is vital for the sustainable management of the subsurface and its resources.

In CCS, continuous and sophisticated monitoring, imaging and control of the growth of the CO2 plume is a prerequisite for the safe and sustainable storage of significant volumes of CO2 in the subsurface. In addition, CO2 injection in CCS but also water (re-)injection in geothermal operations may lead to induced seismicity.

Recently, the development of unconventional hydrocarbon resources - in particular shale gas - has resulted in new opportunities, but also bears environmental and public health risks, which need to be better understood, monitored, managed and communicated appropriately. These risks relate mainly to water pollution (in particular stemming from insufficient underground characterisation, inappropriate well casing, the use of chemicals in the fracking process, and waste management), but also air emissions, induced seismicity and local impacts linked to transport, land and water use.

Research is needed to better understand and quantify possible (natural and engineered) leakage pathways for CO2 and natural gas, the rates of leakage into aquifers and escape at surface, the impacts that leakage can have on fresh groundwater resources, soil and biodiversity, and the time frame in which emissions will return to baseline values. The effective detection and quantification of leakage requires a scientifically robust method for determining natural background concentrations of CO2 and natural gas in the soil and at the surface. Uniform, unbiased and independent data are needed to manage and mitigate the risks of subsurface geo-energy related operations.


An integrated R&D project to gain a better understanding of the possible risks related to CCS and the exploration and exploitation of unconventional hydrocarbons. Focus should be on the detection and monitoring of induced seismicity and stray gases (CO2 and natural gas), and on the mitigation and remediation of their possible negative impacts. A comprehensive R&D programme should combine laboratory experiments, modelling and short- and longer-term field investigations that could include observation wells for the deployment of monitoring equipment. The drilling of exploration and production wells, hydraulic fracturing or other well stimulation and intentional subsurface release of fluids or gases to the groundwater or the atmosphere are strictly outside the scope of this topic.

Issues to be addressed include:

  • Characterisation and lab testing of well seals, analysis of possible leakage pathways and rates, their time-related evolution as well as the mitigation of leakage;
  • Geochemical and microbial interactions with host rocks, overburden, engineered seals such as cement and casing, groundwater, soil and biodiversity;
  • Significantly improved detection limits for CO2, natural gas and natural or human-introduced substances (e.g. metals, chemicals, organic compounds) that may be released through subsurface operations;
  • Determination and validation of the optimal spatial and temporal resolution of a wide range of monitoring techniques, including for microseismicity;
  • Sophisticated, scientifically robust method for determining natural background concentrations of CO2 and natural gas in the soil and at the surface, and for distinguishing between biogenic and thermogenic methane emissions;
  • Development of groundwater remediation methods and protocols;

The project should establish the following:

  • One or more field sites for the deployment of a comprehensive suite of detection and monitoring methods (geophysical, seismic, chemical, biological, surface and subsurface, …);
  • A programme for international cooperation to improve and cross-validate highly sophisticated detection and monitoring technologies for subsurface diffusion of CO2 and natural gas and other substances that may be released through subsurface operations. Focus should be on cooperation and networking with comparable projects in the US and Canada, including the exchange of researchers;
  • A well-documented contribution to the establishment of best practices for baselining, monitoring, mitigation and remediation methods and technologies;
  • A continuous training programme for researchers and students.

The project should take into account the on-going development by the Commission of a Best Available Techniques (BAT) Guidance document on upstream hydrocarbon exploration and production[1], as well as the results of relevant EU supported studies and projects[2].

RRI (RRI) and Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) have to be taken on board in all areas of H2020. In the context of this topic, this includes multi-actor and public engagement in research and innovation, enabling easier access to scientific results, the take up of ethics in the research and innovation content and process, and formal and informal science education.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 5 and 10 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. This does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts. Industry participation is strongly encouraged to facilitate access to existing sites and data, and to allow extending the operating period of the research infrastructure beyond the project duration. In order to allow a timely use of the results, the duration of the project itself should ideally be limited to 3 years.

The project should take account of the review of the effectiveness of the Commission Recommendation of 22 January 2014 on minimum principles for the exploration and production of hydrocarbons (2014/70/EU) (such as shale gas) using high-volume hydraulic fracturing. For the purpose of any testing and demonstration activities, proposals should clearly describe how the project will comply with all relevant environmental legislation, in particular the Water Framework Directive[3], the enforcement of which is the responsibility of permitting authorities in the concerned Member States.

Expected Impact:

Projects should deliver the unbiased and independent scientific evidence to assist policy making for CCS and unconventional hydrocarbons development. This topic is expected to provide European and (in particular) North American researchers, industry and policymakers with a platform to enhance and deepen transatlantic dialogue on environmental issues related to CCS and unconventional hydrocarbons development, to accelerate learning and to provide advanced training. Connecting pilots and projects across the Atlantic should bring the benefits of cross-validation of technologies, sharing results, distributing tasks, bundling expertise and expanding professional networks. For optimal impact, the research and training infrastructure should ideally remain available and operational beyond the duration of the EU support.

Cross-cutting Priorities:

International cooperation



[3]Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy

Topic conditions and documents

Please read carefully all provisions below before the preparation of your application.
IMPORTANT: Please also read the introductory policy context for the activity TOWARDS AN INTEGRATED EU ENERGY SYSTEM of the COMPETITIVE LOW CARBON ENERGY call under the Societal Challenge 3 'Secure, Clean and Efficient Energy' of the Work Programme 2016 - 2017.


  1. List of countries and applicable rules for funding: described in part A of the General Annexes of the General Work Programme.
    Note also that a number of non-EU/non-Associated Countries that are not automatically eligible for funding have made specific provisions for making funding available for their participants in Horizon 2020 projects. See the information in the Online Manual.

  2. Eligibility and admissibility conditions: described in part B and C of the General Annexes of the General Work Programme.

    Proposal page limits and layout: Please refer to Part B of the standard proposal template.

  3. Evaluation

    3.1  Evaluation criteria and procedure, scoring and threshold: described in part H of the General Annexes of the General Work Programme.

    3.2 Submission and evaluation process: Guide to the submission and evaluation process.

  4. Indicative timetable for evaluation and grant agreement:

    Information on the outcome of single-stage evaluation: maximum 5 months from the deadline for submission.
    Signature of grant agreements: maximum 8 months from the deadline for submission.

  5. Provisions, proposal templates and evaluation forms for the type(s) of action(s) under this topic:

    Research and Innovation Action:

    Specific provisions and funding rates
    Proposal templates are available after entering the submission tool below.
    Standard evaluation form
    H2020 General MGA -Multi-Beneficiary
    Annotated Grant Agreement

  6. Additional provisions:

    Horizon 2020 budget flexibility

    Classified information

    Technology readiness levels (TRL) – where a topic description refers to TRL, these definitions apply.

    Financial support to Third Parties – where a topic description foresees financial support to Third Parties, these provisions apply.
  7. Open access must be granted to all scientific publications resulting from Horizon 2020 actions.

    Where relevant, proposals should also provide information on how the participants will manage the research data generated and/or collected during the project, such as details on what types of data the project will generate, whether and how this data will be exploited or made accessible for verification and re-use, and how it will be curated and preserved.

    Open access to research data
    The Open Research Data Pilot has been extended to cover all Horizon 2020 topics for which the submission is opened on 26 July 2016 or later. Projects funded under this topic will therefore by default provide open access to the research data they generate, except if they decide to opt-out under the conditions described in annex L of the Work Programme. Projects can opt-out at any stage, that is both before and after the grant signature.

    Note that the evaluation phase proposals will not be evaluated more favourably because they plan to open or share their data, and will not be penalised for opting out.

    Open research data sharing applies to the data needed to validate the results presented in scientific publications. Additionally, projects can choose to make other data available open access and need to describe their approach in a Data Management Plan.

    - Projects need to create a Data Management Plan (DMP), except if they opt-out of making their research data open access. A first version of the DMP must be provided as an early deliverable within six months of the project and should be updated during the project as appropriate. The Commission already provides guidance documents, including a template for DMPs.

    - Eligibility of costs: costs related to data management and data sharing are eligible for reimbursement during the project duration.

    The legal requirements for projects participating in this pilot are in the article 29.3 of the Model Grant Agreement.


  8. Additional documents

Please note that the topic LCE-01-2016-2017 will open again on 20/09/2016 with the deadline of 14/02/2017, subject to the final decision on 2017 budget appropriations.


Additional documents

  • Flash Call Info en
  • Flash Call Info 2017 en

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