Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Induced seismicity associated with enhanced geothermal system
- Author(s): Majer, Ernest L.
- et al.
Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) offer the potential to significantly add to the world energy inventory. As with any development of new technology, some aspects of the technology has been accepted by the general public, but some have not yet been accepted and await further clarification before such acceptance is possible. One of the issues associated with EGS is the role of microseismicity during the creation of the underground reservoir and the subsequent extraction of the energy. The primary objectives of this white paper are to present an up-to-date review of the state of knowledge about induced seismicity during the creation and operation of enhanced geothermal systems, and to point out the gaps in knowledge that if addressed will allow an improved understanding of the mechanisms generating the events as well as serve as a basis to develop successful protocols for monitoring and addressing community issues associated with such induced seismicity. The information was collected though literature searches as well as convening three workshops to gather information from a wide audience. Although microseismicity has been associated with the development of production and injection operations in a variety of geothermal regions, there have been no or few adverse physical effects on the operations or on surrounding communities. Still, there is public concern over the possible amount and magnitude of the seismicity associated with current and future EGS operations. It is pointed out that microseismicity has been successfully dealt with in a variety of non-geothermal as well as geothermal environments. Several case histories are also presented to illustrate a variety of technical and public acceptance issues. It is concluded that EGS Induced seismicity need not pose any threat to the development of geothermal resources if community issues are properly handled. In fact, induced seismicity provides benefits because it can be used as a monitoring tool to understand the effectiveness of the EGS operations and shed light on the mechanics of the reservoir.