The Large-Scale Helmholtz Research Infrastructure GeoLaB


Thomas KOHL, Ingo SASS, Olaf KOLDITZ, Judith BREMER, Bastian RUDOLPH, Eva SCHILL

Key Words:

underground lab; fractured systems, crystalline rock, high-flow experiments


Stanford Geothermal Workshop




Enhanced Geothermal Systems



Paper Number:


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462 KB

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Beside support of industrial application for geothermal production from hydrothermal reservoirs, research activity has also to focus on the immense potential of geothermal energy in the crystalline basement that may be found at most places in in the Norther hemisphere even at drillable depths. To foster geothermal research in tectonically stressed crystalline underground, the new large-scale research lab, GeoLaB (Geothermal Laboratory in the Crystalline Basement) of the German Helmholtz Association, was recently approved. It will be established in close vicinity to the geothermally highly interesting Upper Rhine Graben consisting of a more than 1 km long gallery and test caverns that connect into high capacity fault zones. To harvest the geothermal potential in an environmentally sound and economic way at comparable high-flow rates ( greater than 10 L/s) from fractured rock, new scientifically founded strategies and technologies are urgently needed. In this context, GeoLaB is targeting on experimental investigation of the physical processes and chemical interactions of fluids that are injected at relevant flow rates into a reservoir. GeoLaB will address fundamental challenges of reservoir technology. For the envisaged target areas in the Black Forest and the Odenwald region the selection of the GeoLaB location will be based on predefined criteria and on innovative geoscientific exploration techniques. The full 3D coverage of monitoring of the controlled, high flow rate experiments will allow not only to evaluate the heterogeneous structures but also to observe their (mechanical, ...) changes with time, pressure or flow (...). The experiments will be monitored continuously from multiple wells, drilled either from the underground laboratory or from the surface. This will create a unique 4D- dataset of thermal, hydraulic, chemical and mechanical parameters. The specific objectives of GeoLaB are 1) efficient and safe management of fractured reservoirs, 2) cutting-edge multidisciplinary and multi-process research with visualization concepts, 3) developing new environmentally benign strategies for subsurface installations, and 4) transparent interaction with the public and decision makers. The planned experiments will significantly expand our fundamental understanding of processes associated with operational conditions in reservoir structures. The application and development of cutting-edge tools for the analysis and the monitoring of belowground processes will yield fundamental findings, which are of major importance for a safe and ecologically sustainable usage of geothermal energy. With this unique worldwide geothermal research infrastructure, GeoLaB allows for cutting-edge science, associating fundamental to applied research for reservoir technology and borehole safety, bridging laboratory to field scale experiments and connecting renewable energy research to social perception. Designed as an interdisciplinary and international research platform, GeoLaB will foster national and international cooperation with universities, research institutions, industrial partners, and professional organizations, hence creating multiple synergies for advancing scientific insight and for boosting technological innovations. GeoLaB will build on experience gained from international existing underground research.

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