Geothermal Industry now under Seismic Renovation

By: XDT - Ten Dimensional Technologies   14-Dec-2010
Keywords: Data Capture, Data Processing, Australian Mining

Understanding seismic signals is becoming vital in the geothermal industry. Techniques involving shear-wave splitting, wave attenuation and velocity variations allow for three-dimensional imaging of subsurface properties relevant to any geothermal project. Going beyond exploration, seismic processing is also successfully being applied to all ramifications of enhanced geothermal systems.

Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) will broaden the possibility of this alternative energy around the world. The U.S. DOE estimates that EGS is capable of supplying 100,000 MW of electricity by 2060. These new plants, with wells no longer measuring in meters but kilometers, will require information on all subterranean aspects. Additionally, EGS depends on the injection of water and the fracturing of rocks deep within the earth. Seismic results from this process must be properly monitored. Earthquakes, such as the 3.4 magnitude at a Swiss Geothermal Plant, must be attributed to natural or unnatural processes.

The incorporation of seismology in geothermal exploration is also growing. Exploration is one of the most important and also costly elements in geothermal development. Originally, geothermal bodies were identified strictly with borehole investigations with little other geological considerations. Many drilling companies will charge upwards of $400/ft. This cost, according to the Geothermal Resource Council, is a primary limiting factor associated with geothermal production. Now, remote sensing techniques, including seismology, are being applied to map the subsurface. Incorporating these new technologies has dropped the cost of exploration while giving drillers more information pertaining to the geothermal project.

In an effort to explain the relevance of these developing seismic technologies, a few brief descriptions, provided by seismic geophysical consultants XDT – Ten Dimensional Technologies, are given in the following two paragraphs.

Shear Wave Splitting - S-waves, produced by any passive seismic event, are uniquely affected by anisotropic elements within the subsurface. Specifically, cracks and fissures polarize s-waves that align normal and parallel to generalized orientation and direction of the foliation. As such, seismometers, placed correctly, can delineate fissure densities direction and distribution.

Seismic Wave Attenuation - Similarly, seismic wave attenuation can be measured to reveal interesting geothermal elements. Waves propagate in all directions originating from a single seismic source. As these waves move through bodies of differing densities, viscosities and temperatures, their signal signature changes accordingly. These data, assuming proper seismometer installment, can be extrapolated to model active geothermal regions, impervious layers and more.

As the energy crisis is being resolved through multiple alternative solutions, the geothermal industry also must also rely on multiple technologies to grow to its full potential. The reliance on intrusive drilling operations to identify geothermal hot spots is slowly being phased out by technologies in seismology, magnetics and other geophysical sciences.


Keywords: Australian Mining, Data Capture, Data Processing, Earthquake Hazards, Earthquake Software, Enhanced Geothermal Systems, Geophysical Consulting, Geothermal Exploration, Mining & Exploration, Mining and Exploration, Mining Exploration, Seismic Analysis, Seismic Companies, Seismic Hazard Assessment, Seismic Software,

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