Evolution of pore fluid pressures in a stimulated geothermal reservoir inferred from earthquake focal mechanisms

Friday, 19 December 2014: 5:30 PM
Toshiko Terakawa, Nagoya University, Nagoya, Japan and Nicholas Deichmann, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
We developed an inversion method to estimate the evolution of pore fluid pressure fields from earthquake focal mechanism solutions based on the Bayesian statistical inference and Akaike’s Bayesian information criterion (ABIC). This method’s application to induced seismicity in the Basel enhanced geothermal system in Switzerland shows the evolution of pore fluid pressures in response to fluid injection experiments. For a few days following the initiation of the fluid injection, overpressurized fluids are concentrated around the borehole and then anisotropically propagate within the reservoir until the bleed-off time. Then, the pore fluid pressure in the vicinity of the borehole drastically decreases, and overpressurized fluids become isolated in a few major fluid pockets. The pore fluid pressure in these pockets gradually decreases with time. The pore fluid pressure in the reservoir is less than the minimum principal stress at each depth, indicating that the hydraulic fracturing did not occur during stimulation. This suggests that seismic events may play an important role to promote the development of permeable channels, particularly southeast of the borehole where the largest seismic event (ML 3.4) occurred. This is not directly related to a drastic decrease in fault strength at the hypocenter, but rather the positive feedback between permeability enhancement and poro-elastic and stress transfer loading from slipping interfaces. These processes likely contribute to this event’s nucleation.