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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Fracture Caging to Limit Induced Seismicity


Geothermal resources offer a stable low-carbon energy source. However, geothermal sites can collocate with the hypocenters of large-magnitude seismic events. Large seismic events pose a risk to public safety and are therefore a liability for efforts to develop geothermal resources. Here, we propose “fracture caging” to limit induced seismic event magnitudes and present evidence from numerical model predictions, laboratory experiments, and field observations. Fracture caging involves drilling tactical production wells around a geothermal injection zone to contain fluids in fracture-dominated flow systems. Prior to our work, the effect of small wells on the growth of large fractures and on flow through fractures was subject to debate. Our work shows that production wells can impede fracture growth and contain high-pressure fluids in fracture-dominated rocks. This containment offers a mechanism to limit induced seismicity.

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