Economic and fault stability analysis of geothermal field development in direct-use hydrothermal reservoirs

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The installed capacity of geothermal systems for direct use of heat is increasing worldwide. As their number and density is increasing, the their interaction with subsurface faults becomes more important as they could lead to safety risks from induced seismicity. Assessment and management of such risks is essential for the further development and extension of geothermal energy for heating. At the same time, the economic output of geothermal systems can be marginal and is hence often supported by subsidy schemes. A combined assessment of fault stability and economic output could help operators to balance economic and safety aspects, but this is currently not common practice. In this study we present a methodology to assess field development plans based on fault stability and Net Present Value (NPV) using reservoir simulations of a fluvial, heterogeneous sandstone representative of the majority of direct-use Dutch geothermal systems. We find that the highest friction coefficient leading to exceedance of the Mohr–Coulomb failure criteria in this sandstone is 0.17; such values could be encountered in clay-rich fault gouges. Similar or lower fault permeability compared to the reservoir results in no changes and an increase respectively of both NPV and fault stability with larger Fault-to-Well Distance (FWD). Fault permeability higher than the reservoir permeability results in a minor increase in NPV with smaller FWD. Our results demonstrate that a combined analysis of thermal, hydraulic, mechanical and economic assessment supports a responsible and viable development of geothermal resources at a large scale. The importance of a high spatial density of supporting stress data will be essential for a better understanding and quantification of economic and fault stability effects of geothermal operations.




Zaal, C., Daniilidis, A., & Vossepoel, F. C. (2021). Economic and fault stability analysis of geothermal field development in direct-use hydrothermal reservoirs. Geothermal Energy, 9(1).

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