The IRETHERM Project: How Can We Characterize Geothermal Reservoirs in Ireland using Magnetotelluric Surveying?

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 11:50 AM
Robert Patrick Delhaye1, Alan G Jones1, Volker Rath1, Colin Brown2 and Derek Reay3, (1)Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, Dublin, Ireland, (2)National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland, (3)Geological Survey of Northern Ireland, Belfast, United Kingdom
We present results from two geophysical investigations of the north of Ireland, one of a concealed sedimentary basin and the other of an area of pre- to mid-Cambrian metasedimentary material with local microseismicity in Donegal. Magnetotelluric data have been acquired over each area as part of the IRETHERM Project in order to assess potential low-enthalpy geothermal resources. In addition, airborne frequency-domain EM response data have been used to assist in the definition of near-surface electrical structure and constraint of magnetotelluric modeling.

The Rathlin Basin in Northern Ireland was identified as a potential geothermal resource due both an elevated geothermal gradient (observed in two deep boreholes) and favorable hydraulic properties in thick successions of Permian and Triassic sandstones (measured from core samples). Prior seismic experiments failed to fully image the sediments beneath the overlying flood basalt. A new experiment applying the magnetotelluric method has had more success, as the MT signal is not dissipated by the crystalline overburden. MT data were acquired at 69 sites across the north-eastern portion of the onshore Rathlin Basin and on nearby Rathlin Island in order to image the thickness, depth, and lateral continuity of the target sediments. Analyses and modeling of the data have determined a resistivity model that maps the variation in thickness of the sediment fill and the truncation of the sediments against the structurally-controlling Tow Valley Fault. Further testing of the model sensitivity to variations of the thickness of the Sherwood Sandstone Group within the sediment fill has also been performed, as the overlying sediments have lower porosities and permeabilities from core sampling.

Microseismicity in a metasedimentary area of northern Donegal suggests that secondary porosity distributions along fracture planes may have been augmented, leading to elevated electrical conductivity. MT data were acquired over the epicenter and surrounding of a M2.2 earthquake that occurred on 26/01/2012, with both audio-MT and broadband MT data acquired at 59 sites, and solely AMT data at the remaining 29 sites. Forward and inverse modeling of the data have been performed to search for fine conductive structures within the bedrock, as well as to model the general subsurface structure.