Sources of Subsidence at the Salton Sea Geothermal Field


Andrew BARBOUR, Eileen EVANS, Stephen HICKMAN, and Mariana ENEVA

Key Words:

Salton Sea Geothermal Field, InSAR, subsidence, poroelasticity


Stanford Geothermal Workshop







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At the Salton Sea Geothermal Field (SSGF) in Southern California, surface deformation associated with geologic processes including sediment compaction, tectonic strain, and fault slip may be augmented by energy production activities. Separating the relative contributions from natural and anthropogenic sources is especially important at the SSGF, which sits at the apex of a complex tectonic transition zone connecting the southern San Andreas Fault with the Imperial Fault; but this has been a challenging task so far. Here we analyze vertical surface velocities obtained from the persistent scatterer InSAR method and find that two of the largest subsidence anomalies can be represented by a set of volumetric strain nuclei at depths comparable to geothermal well completion zones. In contrast, the rates needed to achieve an adequate fit to the magnitudes of subsidence are almost an order of magnitude greater than rates reported for annual changes in aggregate net-production volume, suggesting that the physical mechanism responsible for subsidence at the SSGF is a complicated interplay between natural and anthropogenic sources.

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