InSAR Time Series Analysis and Geophysical Modeling of City Uplift Associated with Geothermal Drillings in Staufen im Breisgau, Germany

Friday, 19 December 2014: 5:45 PM
Christin Lubitz and Mahdi Motagh, Helmholtz Centre Potsdam GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, Germany
Geothermal energy is of increasing importance as alternative, environmentally friendly technology for heat management. Direct interaction with the subsurface requires careful implementation, in particular in geological complex regions. The historical city Staufen im Breisgau, SW Germany, has attracted national attention as a case of implementation failure with severe consequences, causing debates on the applicability and security of this sustainable technique.

Located at the eastern transition zone of the Upper Rhine Graben and the Schwarzwald massif, the geothermal potential is high at Staufen due to strong temperature gradients. In September 2007, seven boreholes for geothermal probes were drilled up to a depth of 140 m to provide a new heat management for the city hall. Within five years an uplift phenomenon has been observed in Staufen reaching more than 40 cm in places and 269 buildings were damaged. Hydro-chemical driven anhydrite-gypsum transformation in the subsurface was identified as the cause leading to volume increase that is observable as surface uplift. This process is associated with the geothermal drilling activities that have crossed several groundwater levels.

In this work, we summarize and present the findings of spaceborne Synthetic Aperture Radar Interferometry (InSAR) analysis of the uplift in Staufen over the last five years from July 2008 through July 2013. By applying the Small Baseline Subset (SBAS) method, we find a localized elliptical-shaped deformation field in NE-SW orientation. Area of maximum uplift is located 50 m NNE of the drilling zone. At this location, we observe a cumulative uplift of approx. 13.7 cm ± 0.34 cm (mean value within an area of 30 m by 30 m) from July 2008 to July 2009, which reduced to cumulative uplift of 3 cm ± 0.25 cm from July 2012 to July 2013. The deceleration can be related to applied countermeasures as borehole sealing and groundwater pumping.

The observed ground surface response was compared to regularly performed leveling measurements and shows indications of significant symmetric horizontal motions, which were further investigated by a combined analysis of SAR imagery from ascending and descending orbits. Moreover, InSAR observations were inverted using geophysical models to derive first order characteristics of deformation source at depth.