Hydraulic fracturing experiments at 1500 m depth in a deep mine: Highlights from the kISMET project
Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Hydraulic fracturing experiments at 1500 m depth in a deep mine: Highlights from the kISMET project


In support of the U.S. DOE SubTER Crosscut initiative, we established a field test facility in a deep mine and designed and carried out in situ hydraulic fracturing experiments relevant to enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) in crystalline rock to characterize the stress field, understand the effects of rock fabric on fracturing, and gain experience in monitoring using geophysical methods. The project also included pre- and post-fracturing simulation and analysis, and laboratory measurements and experiments. The kISMET (permeability (k) and Induced Seismicity Management for Energy Technologies) site was established in the West Access Drift of the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) 4757 ft (1450 m) below ground (on the 4850 ft level (4850L)) in phyllite of the Precambrian Poorman Formation. We drilled and continuously cored five near-vertical boreholes in a line on 3 m (10 ft) spacing, deviating the two outermost boreholes slightly to create a five-spot pattern around the test borehole centered in the test volume 40 m below the drift invert (floor) at a total depth of ~1490 m (4890 ft). Laboratory measurements of core from the center test borehole showed P-wave velocity heterogeneity along each core indicating strong, fine-scale (~1 cm or smaller) changes in the mechanical properties of the rock. Field measurements of the stress field by hydraulic fracturing showed that the minimum horizontal stress at the kISMET site averages 21.7 MPa (3146 psi) trending approximately N-S (356 degrees azimuth) and plunging slightly NNW at 12°. The vertical and horizontal maximum stresses are similar in magnitude at 42-44 MPa (6090-6380 psi) for the depths of testing, which averaged approximately 1530 m (5030 ft). Hydraulic fractures were remarkably uniform suggesting core-scale and larger rock fabric did not play a role in controlling fracture orientation. Analytical solutions suggest that the fracture radius of the large fracture (stimulation test) was more than 6 m (20 ft), depending on the unknown amount of leak-off.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View