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Title: Controlling Subsurface Fractures and Fluid Flow: A Basic Research Agenda

From beneath the surface of the earth, we currently obtain about 80-percent of the energy our nation consumes each year. In the future we have the potential to generate billions of watts of electrical power from clean, green, geothermal energy sources. Our planet’s subsurface can also serve as a reservoir for storing energy produced from intermittent sources such as wind and solar, and it could provide safe, long-term storage of excess carbon dioxide, energy waste products and other hazardous materials. However, it is impossible to underestimate the complexities of the subsurface world. These complexities challenge our ability to acquire the scientific knowledge needed for the efficient and safe exploitation of its resources. To more effectively harness subsurface resources while mitigating the impacts of developing and using these resources, the U.S. Department of Energy established SubTER – the Subsurface Technology and Engineering RD&D Crosscut team. This DOE multi-office team engaged scientists and engineers from the national laboratories to assess and make recommendations for improving energy-related subsurface engineering. The SubTER team produced a plan with the overall objective of “adaptive control of subsurface fractures and fluid flow.”This plan revolved around four core technological pillars—Intelligent Wellbore Systems that sustain the integrity of themore » wellbore environment; Subsurface Stress and Induced Seismicity programs that guide and optimize sustainable energy strategies while reducing the risks associated with subsurface injections; Permeability Manipulation studies that improve methods of enhancing, impeding and eliminating fluid flow; and New Subsurface Signals that transform our ability to see into and characterize subsurface systems. The SubTER team developed an extensive R&D plan for advancing technologies within these four core pillars and also identified several areas where new technologies would require additional basic research. In response, the Office of Science, through its Office of Basic Energy Science (BES), convened a roundtable consisting of 15 national lab, university and industry geoscience experts to brainstorm basic research areas that underpin the SubTER goals but are currently underrepresented in the BES research portfolio. Held in Germantown, Maryland on May 22, 2015, the round-table participants developed a basic research agenda that is detailed in this report. Highlights include the following: -A grand challenge calling for advanced imaging of stress and geological processes to help understand how stresses and chemical substances are distributed in the subsurface—knowledge that is critical to all aspects of subsurface engineering; -A priority research direction aimed at achieving control of fluid flow through fractured media; -A priority research direction aimed at better understanding how mechanical and geochemical perturbations to subsurface rock systems are coupled through fluid and mineral interactions; -A priority research direction aimed at studying the structure, permeability, reactivity and other properties of nanoporous rocks, like shale, which have become critical energy materials and exhibit important hallmarks of mesoscale materials; -A cross-cutting theme that would accelerate development of advanced computational methods to describe heterogeneous time-dependent geologic systems that could, among other potential benefits, provide new and vastly improved models of hydraulic fracturing and its environmental impacts; -A cross-cutting theme that would lead to the creation of “geo-architected materials” with controlled repeatable heterogeneity and structure that can be tested under a variety of thermal, hydraulic, chemical and mechanical conditions relevant to subsurface systems; -A cross-cutting theme calling for new laboratory studies on both natural and geo-architected subsurface materials that deploy advanced high-resolution 3D imaging and chemical analysis methods to determine the ;rates and mechanisms of fluid-rock processes, and to test predictive models of such phenomena. Many of the key energy challenges of the future demand a greater understanding of the subsurface world in all of its complexity. This greater under- standing will improve the ability to control and manipulate the subsurface world in ways that will benefit both the economy and the environment. This report provides specific basic research pathways to address some of the most fundamental issues of energy-related subsurface engineering.« less
 [1] ;  [2] ;  [3]
  1. Purdue Univ., West Lafayette, IN (United States)
  2. Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. (LBNL), Berkeley, CA (United States); Univ. of California, Berkeley, CA (United States)
  3. USDOE Office of Science, Washington, DC (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Resource Type:
Program Document
Research Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC) (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Basic Energy Sciences (BES) (SC-22)
Country of Publication:
United States