University of Wisconsin-Madison - Poroelastic Tomography

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Armed with a wealth of data and new data analysis and integration techniques, images of the subsurface are getting clearer. Image Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison

Armed with a wealth of data and new data analysis and integration techniques, images of the subsurface are getting clearer. Image Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison

The images and behavior of geothermal reservoirs are often blurry, and scientists and engineers oftentimes have difficulty seeing what is going on  at depth.  But UW-Madison geoscientists and engineers are working with industry partners and the Geothermal Technologies Office to correct their subsurface vision to 20/20!

But what can be done to improve our vision in the subsurface?  As part of the project “Poroelastic Tomography by Adjoint Inverse Modeling of Data from Seismology, Geodesy, and Hydrology," funded through the FY14 EGS R&D FOA, the project team is working to integrate several data-gathering approaches, including a new combination of satellite imaging techniques and fiber-optic cable, into a highly detailed monitoring system for geothermal reservoirs.  They are proving out this system at Brady’s Hot Springs in Nevada, though it will ideally be scaled up to other larger fields.

The dynamic nature and intrinsic complexity of EGS and geothermal reservoirs creates a need for data rich analysis to create a clear image.  The development of this highly detailed monitoring system requires the investigation of fundamental geoscience, including rock fractures and deformation.  It also explores the usefulness of fiber optic cables to measure rock properties in a geothermal field, which is common in mining operations and oil exploration, but rare in this setting.  Recent advances in fiber optic technology allow for the collection of detailed seismic and temperature data, producing data about 500 times per second, or about a TB of data per day. 

Armed with a wealth of data and new data analysis and integration techniques, images of the subsurface are getting clearer.  With improved vision, scientists and researchers have the opportunity to create better and more efficient reservoirs, which could lead to the deployment of EGS on a broader scale.