In-Situ Stress and Fracture Characterization for Planning of an EGS Stimulation in the Desert Peak Geothermal Field, NV


Stephen Hickman and Nicholas Davatzes

Key Words:

stress, fracturing, permeability, stimulation, EGS

Geo Location:

Desert Peak, Nevada


Stanford Geothermal Workshop







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A suite of geophysical logs and a hydraulic fracturing stress measurement were conducted in well 27-15 in the Desert Peak Geothermal Field, Nevada, to constrain the state of stress and the geometry and relative permeability of natural fractures in preparation for development of an Enhanced Geothermal System (EGS) through hydraulic stimulation. Advanced Logic Technologies Borehole Televiewer (BHTV) and Schlumberger Formation MicroScanner (FMS) image logs reveal extensive drilling-induced tensile fractures, showing that the current minimum horizontal principal stress, Shmin, in the vicinity of well 27-15 is oriented 114 ± 17º. This orientation is consistent with down-dip extensional slip on a set of ESE and WNW dipping normal faults mapped at the surface. Similarly, all formations imaged in the BHTV and FMS logs include significant sub-populations of fractures that are well oriented for normal faulting given this direction of Shmin. Although the bulk permeability of the well is quite low, temperature and spinner flowmeter surveys reveal several minor flowing fractures. Some of these relatively permeable fractures are well oriented for normal faulting, in addition to fluid flow that is preferentially developed at low-angle formation boundaries.

A hydraulic fracturing stress measurement conducted at the top of the intended stimulation interval (931 m) indicates that the magnitude of Shmin is 13.8 MPa, which is 0.609 of the calculated vertical (overburden) stress at this depth. Given the current water table depth (122 m below ground level), this Shmin magnitude is somewhat higher than expected for frictional failure on optimally oriented normal faults given typical laboratory measurements of sliding friction (Byerlee’s Law). Coulomb failure calculations assuming cohesionless pre-existing fractures with coefficients of friction of 0.6 or higher (consistent with Byerlee’s Law and with tests on representative core samples from nearby wells) indicate that shear failure could be induced on well-oriented fractures seen in the well once fluid pressures are increased ~2.5 MPa or more above the ambient formation fluid pressure. This includes the intended stimulation interval at 0.9 to 1.1 km depth, which is comprised of rhyolite tuff and argillite at ambient temperatures of ~180 to 195° C. This geomechanical model will be tested during hydraulic stimulation of well 27-15 as part of the Desert Peak EGS Project, which is intended to enhance formation permeability through self-propping shear failure. If this stimulation is successful, then preferential activation of normal faults associated with the current stress state should generate a zone of enhanced permeability propagating to the SSW, in the direction of nearby geothermal injection and production wells, and to the NNE, into an unexploited portion of the field. These results indicate that well 27-15 is a viable candidate for EGS stimulation and complements research by other investigators, including cuttings and core testing, geochemical tracer studies, pressure transient analyses, and micro-seismic monitoring.

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