Towards the Understanding of Induced Seismicity in Enhanced Geothermal Systems Geothermal Project

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Last modified on July 22, 2011.

Project Title Towards the Understanding of Induced Seismicity in Enhanced Geothermal Systems
Project Type / Topic 1 Recovery Act: Enhanced Geothermal Systems Component Research and Development/Analysis
Project Type / Topic 2 Induced Seismicity
Project Description As part of a larger-scale international collaboration with 11 European partners from six countries including universities, research centers and industry, the proposed project is a smaller collaborative effort between Array Information Technology, University of California at Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Helmholtz Centre Potsdam German Research Centre for Geosciences and is aimed to address and mitigate the problems associated with induced seismicity in Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS).

Generation of electricity from enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) has generated increased interest in recent years due to efforts to increase clean energy contribution to the world energy inventory. Although EGS systems have been operated in different geological settings worldwide, a common problem is the impact of induced seismicity associated with the injection of water to stimulate the reservoir. Public concern over seismicity associated with geothermal operations have resulted in delays, shut downs and threatened cancelations of at least two EGS systems worldwide. In these cases, efforts to mitigate the effects of water injection were unsuccessful resulting in the stimulation of seismic events M > 3. This suggests that a better understanding between water injection and induced changes of physical properties in the reservoir are needed.

State California
Objectives - Develop a combination of techniques to evaluate the relationship between enhanced geothermal operations and the induced stress changes throughout the reservoir and the surrounding country rock that lead to earthquakes of M > 3.

- Assemble and study a suite of datasets from EGS systems around the world,

Awardees (Company / Institution) Array Information Technology
Awardee Website
Partner 1 University of California Berkeley
Partner 2 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Partner 3 Helmholtz Centre Potsdam German Research Centre for Geosciences

Partner 6 Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA)
Partner 7 Great Lakes Capital Fund

Funding Opportunity Announcement DE-FOA-0000075
DOE Funding Level (total award amount) $1,381,611.00
Awardee Cost Share $5,400,000.00
Total Project Cost $6,781,611.00

Principal Investigator(s) Dr. Roland Gritto, Array

Targets / Milestones The current study will investigate these problems, using moment tensor analyses to determine source mechanisms and stress changes for the larger size events supported by joint hypocenter relocations and time-lapse tomographic imaging to evaluate and quantify temporal changes of the physical parameters in the reservoir. This effort will be supported by geomechanial fluid injection modeling to attempt to understand the relationship between water injection and steam production and the state of stress in the reservoir, which leads to failure mechanisms of the reservoir rock. The results of these tasks will be combined to evaluate the potential of future seismicity through a large-scale geomechanical model. This will provide the basis for a detailed hazard analysis study. Questions to be answered include the effect of geothermal activity on the local and regional stress field, the size and likelihood of the largest possible earthquake and the likely associated ground motion.

The benefits of the proposed study will a fundamental understanding of the relationship between geothermal operations and the generation of earthquakes of M > 3, which threaten operations due to public concern. The technologies developed under this project will be made available in form of a compilation of software codes supported by scientific reports. Most of all, through collaboration with European partners, a database of compiled data form 11 EGS sites worldwide will be made available to DOE for future research opportunities.

Location of Project Emeryville, CA
37.8314°, -122.2853°

Impacts If successful, will provide a fundamental understanding of the relationship between geothermal operations and the generation of earthquakes.
Funding Source American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
References EERE Geothermal Technologies Programs[1]


  1. EERE Geothermal Technologies Programs