The Self-Potential Method in Geothermal Exploration

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Journal Article: The Self-Potential Method in Geothermal Exploration

Laboratory measurements and field data indicate that self-potential anomalies comparable to those observed in many areas of geothermal activity may be generated by thermoelectric or electrokinetic coupling processes. A study using an analytical technique based on concepts of irreversible thermodynamics indicates that, for a simple spherical source model, potentials generated by electrokinetic coupling may be of greater amplitude than those developed by thermoelectric coupling. Before more quantitative interpretations of potentials generated by geothermal activity can be made, analytical solutions for more realistic geometries must be developed, and values of in-situ coupling coefficients must be obtained.If the measuring electrodes are not watered, and if telluric currents and changes in electrode polarization are monitored and corrections made for their effects, most self-potential measurements are reproducible within about + or -5 mV. Reproducible short-wavelength geologic noise of as much as + or -10 mV, primarily caused by variation in soil properties, is common in arid areas, with lower values in areas of uniform, moist soil. Because self-potential variations may be produced by conductive mineral deposits, stray currents from cultural activity, and changes in geologic or geochemical conditions, self-potential data must be analyzed carefully before a geothermal origin is assigned to observed anomalies.Self-potential surveys conducted in a variety of geothermal areas show anomalies ranging from about 50 mV to over 2 V in amplitude over distances of about 100 m to 10 km. The polarity and waveform of the observed anomalies vary, with positive, negative, bipolar, and multipolar anomalies having been reported from different areas. Steep potential gradients often are seen over faults which are thought to act as conduits for thermal fluids. In some areas, anomalies several kilometers wide correlate with regions of known elevated thermal gradient or heat flow.

R. F. Corwin and D. B. Hoover

Published Journal 
Geophysics, 2005


Internet link for The Self-Potential Method in Geothermal Exploration

R. F. Corwin,D. B. Hoover. 2005. The Self-Potential Method in Geothermal Exploration. Geophysics. 44(2):226-245.