The Institute’s scientific sectors

In fulfilling its mission, Ineris has structured its expertise into three areas, which allow it to evaluate a risk-related issue from three different directions: accidental risk, chronic risk, soil and subsoil risk.

The Institute’s expertise is organized into “scientific sectors.”

These “sectors” structure the Institute’s teams by scientific discipline - chemistry, physics, ecology, mathematics, geology, sociology - and by the subject to which the discipline is applied: an environmental chemist doesn’t work on the same subjects as a process chemist, for example. The purpose of this system is to encourage a multidisciplinary approach to risk, which part of the added value of Ineris’ work.
For example, the Institute can assist in the safe development of new energy sectors, approaching it from different angles. Ineris studies the risk of gas explosion (accidental risk) in methanization and the impact of emissions produced by digestate (chronic risk). Its experts study problems of corrosion (accidental risk) and waste management (chronic risk) in biorefineries. Ineris looks into the risks of explosion (accidental risk) of subsoil hydrogen storage along with the safety of access shafts and subterranean reservoirs (soil/subsoil risk).

Accidental risk

As its name suggests, Ineris’ accidental risk expertise combines scientific knowledge on dealing with the risk of an accident, defined as an unwanted, dangerous event that causes damage. The technical characteristics studied by Ineris, of a given (dangerous) phenomenon, are of high or extremely high intensity; their effect is brief and immediate or near-immediate, they are brutal, brief, unexpected events. At Ineris, “accidental risk” applies exclusively to risks of accident generated by industrial and technological activities. Accidental risk experts employ scientific disciplines as varied as chemical/process engineering, fluid mechanics, energy, materials physics, ergonomics and engineering sciences in general.

The core of the Institute’s competence is based on knowledge of the danger of chemical substances, possible accidental sequences, and the “dangerous” phenomena that result from them. These phenomena are commonly classified into three categories: explosion, fire/inflammation and dispersion/toxic leaks. The Institute furthers this knowledge in all areas of industrial activity: molecular, production procedures and processes and operational sites as a whole. Ineris initially developed its expertise around activities involving chemical substances (chemistry, heavy industry, energy), categorised as “industrial risks” and “transport of dangerous materials” (TMD in the classification of major technological risks). This expertise was progressively applied to innovative fields with similar safety issues: nanotechnology and new energy sources (hydrogen mobility, methanization, electric batteries, etc.).

Chronic risk

The scope of Ineris’ expertise in chronic risk may be understood through the common expression “chronic illness,” which refers to an illness “with symptoms that are slow to appear, of long, sometimes permanent duration.” Expertise in chronic risk also qualifies Ineris’ competence in sustainability and “low doses” of risk. Whether there is a single exposure or one repeated over time, the characteristics of the risk are highly variable but generally of low intensity, with effects that appear after a latency period and last a long time. In the field of environmental risk, chronic risk applies to risks to the health of populations and to the integrity of natural surroundings and biodiversity. Chronic risk and accidental risk do not overlap in the context of the Institute's activity and are handled by separate interdependent sectors. Expertise in chronic risk is based on a range of scientific fields: analytical chemistry, toxicology / ecotoxicology, ecology, atmospheric physics and chemistry, biology, botany, economics, etc.

The competent CEO of the Institute is founded on its knowledge of chemical substances present in the environment (or of a physical agent, electromagnetic fields). It covers the measurement of substances in their environment (quantification and qualification), their properties which could pose a potential danger to man and the environment, their behaviour (transference, transformation ...) in natural environments (air, water, soil ...). This wide range of knowledge gives Ineris expertise in all areas of risk which could generate chemical pollution and on the cost benefit of pollution prevention...

Soil and Subsoil Risk

Ineris’ soil/subsoil risk expertise falls within the realm of geosciences: geomechanics, geology, geotechnics, hydrogeology, geochemistry, etc. This type of risk is classed as accidental risk, but differentiated in the industrial and technological sense, being solely of anthropogenic origin (caused by human activity). Economic activities involving exploitation of the subsoil (mines, quarries, etc.) can create the conditions for the occurrence of dangerous natural phenomena (ground movement, floods, etc.).

Ineris has thus developed competencies in areas such as ground movement which affect the exploitation of ground-level and subterranean activities: collapse of cavities, mudslides and rockfalls, compacting and swelling of the ground, induced seismicity. These phenomena have one point in common, they are all due to the effect of gravity, which is at the heart of Ineris' expertise, but gravitational effects are propagated either from ground level up (collapsing cavities or land ground movement), or from above (mudslides and rockfalls).

Ineris' expertise in ground movement applies to all subterranean economic activities and by extension, to all new forms of subterranean operations: energy storage, capture, transport and storage of CO2, geothermal ... As part of natural risk prevention, the Institute studies the risk of ground movement and cavity collapse well beyond the limits of economic activities. There is a significant overlap between risks in an economic activity and those in town planning.