Following a ‘volume’ in the making : the ambiguous borders of coal bed methane exploration in Lorraine (France)

Authors: Olivier Labussiere*, CNRS
Topics: Energy, Political Geography, Anthropocene
Keywords: energy transition, materiality, space, volume, political geology
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 6:20 PM
Room: Galerie 2, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The notion of ‘volume’ is uneasy to grasp as it refers to different perspectives in tension (Elden; Bridge; Steinberg & Peters) : a moving medium, volumetrics and, in some cases, commodified entities. Instead of excluding one each other, the paper’s attempt is to characterize their mutual entanglements. The paper’s rationale is that such a work helps us to acknowledge the political dimensions of a ‘volume’ in the making and its ambiguous relations to local territory. Drawing on a case study on coal bed methane exploration in Lorraine (France), the presentation follows an Australian junior company in its attempts to turn the underground into a manageable volume that fosters the recovery of diffuse gas. The ‘volume’ occurs in the process through different and mixed modes of existence: an abstract estimate of recoverable gas based on the intensive capture of inherited mining archives ; a drilling concept steered by physical principles progressively copping with the changing states of the gas in a wet underground ; an advertising campaign presenting the gas from Lorraine in a typically French jar of jam to distinct it from shale gas and Russian gas imports. These processes bring to the light how an emerging gas ‘volume’ is politically embedded in the local territory (capture of local knowledge, uncertain underground experiments, instrumental use of ‘local’ specificity). This opens a discussion about the difficulty to bring a multi-dimensional ‘volume’ into democracy, as its delineations (aggregated calculations, hidden experiments, promotional container) tend to stand the ‘public’ back of the issues.

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