Evolution Of The Wairakei Geothermal Reservoir During 50 Years Of Production

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Journal Article: Evolution Of The Wairakei Geothermal Reservoir During 50 Years Of Production

The Wairakei geothermal field has been under production for more than 50 years. Exploration wells show that the high-temperature and very permeable, productive resource extends over about 12 km2 within a greater area of about 25 km2 that shows various effects of thermal activity. Up to 2006, 3 km3 of fluid and 2750 PJ of energy had been extracted at an average rate of 5250 t/h and enthalpy of 1130 kJ/kg. Significant production started in 1955 and up to 1978 there was no injection of cooled geothermal fluids. During the first decade of operation a pressure drawdown of up to 20 bars (2 MPa) developed and spread evenly across the reservoir, even though fluid extraction was focused within an area of 1 km2 close to the northeastern field boundary. This pressure reduction resulted in widespread boiling and formation of segregated steam zones at the top of the reservoir together with inflow of cooler fluids into its northeastern part via the original natural outflow channels. From 1975 to 1997 pressures in the deep liquid reservoir stabilized at 23-25 bars (2.3-2.5 MPa) below the original pressure, with little change up to the time injection commenced in 1998. This natural pressure support indicates that prior to injection there was substantial recharge, 80% of which is assessed as high-temperature deep inflow. Since 1998 about 30% of the extracted fluids have been injected and reservoir pressures have increased by 3-4 bars (0.3-0.4 MPa). To date, significant returns of injected fluids have not been detected in the production areas. Over the 50 years of operation, temperatures in the main production areas have declined from 250 to 220°C while deeper production zones toward the western boundary of the reservoir have remained at about 250°C. A series of deeper makeup wells to maintain future production have been drilled in the high-temperature recharge area. An increasing fraction of injection, both in-field and out-field is planned over the next few years.

Paul F. Bixley, Alan W. Clotworthy and Warren I. Mannington

Published Journal 
Geothermics, 2009



Paul F. Bixley,Alan W. Clotworthy,Warren I. Mannington. 2009. Evolution Of The Wairakei Geothermal Reservoir During 50 Years Of Production. Geothermics. (!) .