Characterization of EGS Fracture Network Lifecycles

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Geothermal energy is relatively clean, and is an important non-hydrocarbon source of energy. It can potentially reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and contribute to reduction in carbon emissions. High-temperature geothermal areas can be used for electricity generation if they contain permeable reservoirs of hot water or steam that can be extracted. The biggest challenge to achieving the full potential of the nation’s resources of this kind is maintaining and creating the fracture networks required for the circulation, heating, and extraction of hot fluids. The fundamental objective of the present research was to understand how fracture networks are created in ... continued below

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Foulger, Gillian R. March 31, 2008.

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Description

Geothermal energy is relatively clean, and is an important non-hydrocarbon source of energy. It can potentially reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and contribute to reduction in carbon emissions. High-temperature geothermal areas can be used for electricity generation if they contain permeable reservoirs of hot water or steam that can be extracted. The biggest challenge to achieving the full potential of the nation’s resources of this kind is maintaining and creating the fracture networks required for the circulation, heating, and extraction of hot fluids. The fundamental objective of the present research was to understand how fracture networks are created in hydraulic borehole injection experiments, and how they subsequently evolve. When high-pressure fluids are injected into boreholes in geothermal areas, they flow into hot rock at depth inducing thermal cracking and activating critically stressed pre-existing faults. This causes earthquake activity which, if monitored, can provide information on the locations of the cracks formed, their time-development and the type of cracking underway, e.g., whether shear movement on faults occurred or whether cracks opened up. Ultimately it may be possible to monitor the critical earthquake parameters in near-real-time so the information can be used to guide the hydraulic injection while it is in progress, e.g., how to adjust factors such as injectate pressure, volume and temperature. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to mature analysis techniques and software that were, at the start of this project, in an embryonic developmental state. Task 1 of the present project was to develop state-of-the-art techniques and software for calculating highly accurate earthquake locations, earthquake source mechanisms (moment tensors) and temporal changes in reservoir structure. Task 2 was to apply the new techniques to hydrofracturing (Enhanced Geothermal Systems, or “EGS”) experiments performed at the Coso geothermal field, in order to enhance productivity there. Task 3 was to interpret the results jointly with other geological information in order to provide a consistent physical model. All of the original goals of the project have been achieved. An existing program for calculating accurate relative earthquake locations has been enhanced by a technique to improve the accuracy of earthquake arrival-time measurements using waveform cross-correlation. Error analysis has been added to pre-existing moment tensor software. New seismic tomography software has been written to calculate changes in structure that could be due, for example, to reservoir depletion. Data processing procedures have been streamlined and web tools developed for rapid dissemination of the results, e.g., to on-site operations staff. Application of the new analysis tools to the Coso geothermal field has demonstrated the effective use of the techniques and provided important case histories to guide the style of future applications. Changes in reservoir structure with time are imaged throughout the upper 3 km, identifying the areas where large volumes of fluid are being extracted. EGS hydrofracturing experiments in two wells stimulated a nearby fault to the south that ruptured from south to north. The position of this fault could be precisely mapped and its existence was confirmed by surface mapping and data from a borehole televiewer log. No earthquakes occurred far north of the injection wells, suggesting that the wells lie near the northern boundary of the region of critically stressed faults. Minor en-echelon faults were also activated. Significant across-strike fluid flow occurred. The faults activated had significant crack-opening components, indicating that the hydraulic fracturing created open cavities at depth. The fluid injection changed the local stress field orientation and thus the mode of failure was different from the normal background. Initial indications are that the injections modulated stress release, seismicity and natural fracture system evolution for periods of up to months. The research demonstrated full technical effectiveness and economic feasability of seismic monitoring of EGS injections using earthquakes as the sources. It is critical that high-quality data are available for the most useful results to be obtainable. The biggest challenge to the subject at present is to install earthquake monitoring networks of sufficient quality to deliver data that can take full advantage of the new techniques developed by this project. An industrial standard operating approach is proposed in this report. When adopted, it will potentially contribute significantly to developing fully the nations geothermal energy potential by assisting in creating the fracture networks necessary for geothermal resources to be extracted from the ground.

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  • Report No.: Final Report
  • Grant Number: FG36-06GO16058
  • DOI: 10.2172/926201 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 926201
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc895319

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  • March 31, 2008

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  • Sept. 27, 2016, 1:39 a.m.

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Foulger, Gillian R. Characterization of EGS Fracture Network Lifecycles, report, March 31, 2008; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc895319/: accessed August 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.