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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Hydromechanical Modeling of Fault Reactivation in the St. Gallen Deep Geothermal Project (Switzerland): Poroelasticity or Hydraulic Connection?


In 2013, fluid injection during the St. Gallen deep geothermal project, Switzerland, induced hundreds of seismic events, including a ML 3.5 earthquake on a fault hundreds of meters away from the well. Recent studies have suggested the direct pressure effect through permeable hydraulic connections and poroelastic effects as possible mechanisms for inducing seismicity on distant faults. In St. Gallen, operational, seismic, and earthquake data are available to investigate the underlying physical mechanisms using a numerical model. The results show that Coulomb stress changes at the fault can be 3 orders of magnitude greater when a hydraulic connection is present. Combining this with several field observations, we conclude that the direct pressure effect was more likely the predominant mechanism behind the seismicity induced in St. Gallen. The detection of hydraulic connections may be important for future projects as pressure can be driven far from the well and reactivate remote faults.

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