The thermal conductivity of rock under hydrothermal conditions: measurements and applications

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The thermal conductivities of most major rock-forming minerals vary with both temperature and confining pressure, leading to substantial changes in the thermal properties of some rocks at the high temperatures characteristic of geothermal systems. In areas with large geothermal gradients, the successful use of near-surface heat flow measurements to predict temperatures at depth depends upon accurate corrections for varying thermal conductivity. Previous measurements of the thermal conductivity of dry rock samples as a function of temperature were inadequate for porous rocks and susceptible to thermal cracking effects in nonporous rocks. We have developed an instrument for measuring the thermal conductivity ... continued below

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335-341

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Williams, Colin F. & Sass, John H. January 24, 1996.

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The thermal conductivities of most major rock-forming minerals vary with both temperature and confining pressure, leading to substantial changes in the thermal properties of some rocks at the high temperatures characteristic of geothermal systems. In areas with large geothermal gradients, the successful use of near-surface heat flow measurements to predict temperatures at depth depends upon accurate corrections for varying thermal conductivity. Previous measurements of the thermal conductivity of dry rock samples as a function of temperature were inadequate for porous rocks and susceptible to thermal cracking effects in nonporous rocks. We have developed an instrument for measuring the thermal conductivity of water-saturated rocks at temperatures from 20 to 350 °C and confining pressures up to 100 MPa. A transient line-source of heat is applied through a needle probe centered within the rock sample, which in turn is enclosed within a heated pressure vessel with independent controls on pore and confining pressure. Application of this technique to samples of Franciscan graywacke from The Geysers reveals a significant change in thermal conductivity with temperature. At reservoir-equivalent temperatures of 250 °C, the conductivity of the graywacke decreases by approximately 25% relative to the room temperature value. Where heat flow is constant with depth within the caprock overlying the reservoir, this reduction in conductivity with temperature leads to a corresponding increase in the geothermal gradient. Consequently, reservoir temperature are encountered at depths significantly shallower than those predicted by assuming a constant temperature gradient with depth. We have derived general equations for estimating the thermal conductivity of most metamorphic and igneous rocks and some sedimentary rocks at elevated temperature from knowledge of the room temperature thermal conductivity. Application of these equations to geothermal exploration should improve estimates of subsurface temperatures derived from heat flow measurements.

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335-341

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  • Proceedings, Twenty-First Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, January 22-24, 1996

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  • Report No.: SGP-TR-151-47
  • Grant Number: None
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 889842
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc884769

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Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports

Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) is the Department of Energy (DOE) office that collects, preserves, and disseminates DOE-sponsored research and development (R&D) results that are the outcomes of R&D projects or other funded activities at DOE labs and facilities nationwide and grantees at universities and other institutions.

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  • January 24, 1996

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  • Sept. 21, 2016, 2:29 a.m.

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  • Dec. 7, 2016, 11:05 p.m.

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Williams, Colin F. & Sass, John H. The thermal conductivity of rock under hydrothermal conditions: measurements and applications, article, January 24, 1996; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc884769/: accessed November 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.