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Title: Recover Act. Verification of Geothermal Tracer Methods in Highly Constrained Field Experiments

The prediction of the geothermal system efficiency is strong linked to the character of the flow system that connects injector and producer wells. If water flow develops channels or “short circuiting” between injection and extraction wells thermal sweep is poor and much of the reservoir is left untapped. The purpose of this project was to understand how channelized flow develops in fracture geothermal reservoirs and how it can be measured in the field. We explored two methods of assessing channelization: hydraulic connectivity tests and tracer tests. These methods were tested at a field site using two verification methods: ground penetrating radar (GPR) images of saline tracer and heat transfer measurements using distributed temperature sensing (DTS). The field site for these studies was the Altona Flat Fractured Rock Research Site located in northeastern New York State. Altona Flat Rock is an experimental site considered a geologic analog for some geothermal reservoirs given its low matrix porosity. Because soil overburden is thin, it provided unique access to saturated bedrock fractures and the ability image using GPR which does not effectively penetrate most soils. Five boreholes were drilled in a “five spot” pattern covering 100 m2 and hydraulically isolated in a single beddingmore » plane fracture. This simple system allowed a complete characterization of the fracture. Nine small diameter boreholes were drilled from the surface to just above the fracture to allow the measurement of heat transfer between the fracture and the rock matrix. The focus of the hydraulic investigation was periodic hydraulic testing. In such tests, rather than pumping or injection in a well at a constant rate, flow is varied to produce an oscillating pressure signal. This pressure signal is sensed in other wells and the attenuation and phase lag between the source and receptor is an indication of hydraulic connection. We found that these tests were much more effective than constant pumping tests in identifying a poorly connected well. As a result, we were able to predict which well pairs would demonstrate channelized flow. The focus of the tracer investigation was multi-ionic tests. In multi-ionic tests several ionic tracers are injected simultaneously and the detected in a nearby pumping well. The time history of concentration, or breakthrough curve, will show a separation of the tracers. Anionic tracers travel with the water but cationic tracer undergo chemical exchange with cations on the surface of the rock. The degree of separation is indicative of the surface area exposed to the tracer. Consequently, flow channelization will tend to decrease the separation in the breakthrough. Estimation of specific surface area (the ration of fracture surface area to formation volume) is performed through matching the breakthrough curve with a transport model. We found that the tracer estimates of surface area were confirmed the prediction of channelized flow between well pairs produced by the periodic hydraulic tests. To confirm that the hydraulic and tracer tests were correctly predicting channelize flow, we imaged the flow field using surface GPR. Saline water was injected between the well pairs which produced a change in the amplitude and phase of the reflected radar signal. A map was produced of the migration of saline tracer from these tests which qualitatively confirmed the flow channelization predicted by the hydraulic and tracer tests. The resolution of the GPR was insufficient to quantitatively estimate swept surface area, however. Surface GPR is not applicable in typical geothermal fields because the penetration depths do not exceed 10’s of meters. Nevertheless, the method of using of phase to measure electrical conductivity and the assessment of antennae polarization represent a significant advancement in the field of surface GPR. The effect of flow character on fracture / rock thermal exchange was evaluated using heated water as a tracer. Water elevated 30 degrees C above the formation water was circulated between two wells pairs. One well pair had been identified in hydraulic and tracer testing as well connected and the other poorly connected. Temperature rise was measured in the adjacent rock matrix using coiled fiber optic cable interrogated for temperature using a DTS. This experimental design produced over 4000 temperature measurements every hour. We found that heat transfer between the fracture and the rock matrix was highly impacted by the character of the flow field. The strongly connected wells which had demonstrated flow channelization produced heat rise in a much more limited area than the more poorly connected wells. In addition, the heat increase followed the natural permeability of the fracture rather than the induced flow field. The primary findings of this work are (1) even in a single relatively planar fracture, the flow field can be highly heterogeneous and exhibit flow channeling, (2) channeling results from a combination of fracture permeability structure and the induced flow field, and (3) flow channeling leads to reduced heat transfer. Multi-ionic tracers effectively estimate relative surface area but an estimate of ion-exchange coefficients are necessary to provide an absolute measure of specific surface area. Periodic hydraulic tests also proved a relative indicator of connectivity but cannot prove an absolute measure of specific surface area.« less
  1. California State University, Long Beach, CA (United States)
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OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
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Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
California State University, Long Beach, CA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Geothermal Technologies Program (EE-2C)
Country of Publication:
United States
15 GEOTHERMAL ENERGY fractures, tracers, hydraulic tests