Mission Statement

The Geothermal Energy & Geofluids group is endowed by the Werner Siemens Foundation and investigates reactive fluid (water, CO2, CxHy, N2) and (geothermal) energy (heat, pressure) transfer in the Earth’s crust employing computer simulations, laboratory experiments and field analyses to gain fundamental insights and to address a wide range of societal goals and concerns. ➞ Read More

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GEG News


22.07.2021

New GEG XRCT Website published

The GEG XRCT system of ETH Zurich provides resources and services in Xray-CT imaging as well as direct access to state-​of-the-art CT scanner, dedicated software, and in-situ imaging equipment.


03.06.2021

ETH Medal: Distinction of Doctoral Thesis – Edoardo Rossi

Dr. Edoardo Rossi received the ETH Medal (Auszeichnung von Doktorarbeit) for his doctoral thesis: “Combined Thermo-​​Mechanical Drilling Technology to Enhance Access to Deep Geo-​​Resources”.
Edoardo Rossi is currently a research associate at the Geothermal Energy and Geofluids (GEG) group and former doctoral student at GEG and the Laboratory for Transport Processes and Reactions (LTR) at D-MAVT.


20.05.2021

EASYGO Project granted

We want to congratulate Dr. Maren Brehme (TU Delft) with the granted ITN EASYGO ‘Efficiency & Safety in Geothermal Operations’ which creates 13 PhD positions within our network. A prestigious 3.4M€ fund has been awarded by the European Commission to her project entitled ‘EASYGO: Efficiency and Safety in Geothermal Operations’

3 out of 13 EASYGO PhD students will do their research at the GEG Group: Nicolas Rangel Jurado, Anna Kotsova and Tristan Leonar Merbecks.
Read more – ITN EASYGO Webpage


30.03.2021

Earth Sciences at ETH Zurich 7th time in a row Nr. 1 worldwide


19.12.2020

2020 MIT A+B Best Paper Award

Dr. Edoardo Rossi, research associate at the Geothermal Energy and Geofluids (GEG) group and former doctoral student at GEG and the Laboratory for Transport Processes and Reactions (LTR), and his Co-Authors received the Best Paper Award at the MIT A+B Applied Energy Symposium, held virtually at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – MIT, with the paper:

Rossi, E., B. Adams, D. Vogler, Ph. Rudolf von Rohr, B. Kammermann, and M.O. Saar, Advanced drilling technologies to improve the economics of deep geo-resource utilization, Proceedings of Applied Energy Symposium: MIT A+B, United States, 2020 , 8, pp. 1-6, 2020. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]Access to deep energy resources (geothermal energy, hydrocarbons) from deep reservoirs will play a fundamental role over the next decades. However, drilling of deep wells to extract deep geo-resources is extremely expensive. As a fact, drilling deep wells into hard, crystalline rocks represents a major challenge for conventional rotary drilling systems, featuring high rates of drill bit wear and requiring frequent drill bit replacements, low penetration rates and poor process efficiency. Therefore, with the aim of improving the overall economics to access deep geo-resources in hard rocks, in this work, we focus on two novel drilling methods, namely: the Combined Thermo-Mechanical Drilling (CTMD) and the Plasma-Pulse Geo-Drilling (PPGD) technologies. The goal of this research and development project is the effective reduction of the costs of drilling in general and particularly regarding accessing and using deep geothermal energy, oil or gas resources. In this work, we present these two novel drilling technologies and focus on evaluating the process efficiency and the drilling performance of these methods, compared to conventional rotary drilling.

 


10.12.2020

2019 WRR Editors’ Choice Award

Dec. 2020: GEG paper receives a 2019 Water Resources Research Journal Editor’s Choice Award, given to 1% of papers in a given year (here 2019). The paper is:

Kittilä, A., M.R. Jalali, K.F. Evans, M. Willmann, M.O. Saar, and X.-Z. Kong, Field Comparison of DNA-Labeled Nanoparticle and Solute Tracer Transport in a Fractured Crystalline Rock, Water Resources Research, 2019. [Download PDF]

 


Videos

CO2-Plume Geothermal (CPG) power plants combine geologic CO2 storage with geothermal energy extraction.
© Shannon Gilley
macarthur_100mchange_video_link
Inexhaustible resource of clean, renewable Geothermal Energy.
© ETH Zurich

By 2050, geothermal energy can cover 25% of Switzerland’s heating needs in a CO2-neutral way. © Daniel Stegmann

Grimsel rock laboratory, safer drilling methods.
© 3sat nano

GEG Events

NEXT EVENT
04.08.2021
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Jan Niederau (GEG group presentation)
GEG Meetings, ETH Zurich


15.09.2021
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Luise Dambly (GEG group presentation)
GEG Meetings, ETH Zurich


22.09.2021
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Xiangzhao Kong (GEG group presentation)
GEG Meetings, ETH Zurich


29.09.2021
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Mohamed Ezzat (GEG group presentation)
GEG Meetings, ETH Zurich



Newest GEG Papers

Refereed journal papers in 2021
Underlined names are links to current or past GEG members


Simulating plasma formation in pores under short electric pulses for Plasma Pulse Geo Drilling (PPGD)
Ezzat, M., D. Vogler, M. O. Saar, and B. M. Adams, Energies, (in press). [View Abstract]

Plasma Pulse Geo Drilling (PPGD) is a contact-less drilling technique, where an electric discharge across a rock sample causes the rock to fracture. Experimental results have shown PPGD drilling operations are successful if certain electrode spacings, pulse voltages, and pulse rise times are given. However, the underlying physics of the electric breakdown within the rock, which cause damage in the process, are still poorly understood.

This study presents a novel methodology to numerically study plasma generation for electric pulses between 200 to 500 kV in rock pores with a width between 10 and 100 \(\mu\)m. We further investigate whether the pressure increase, induced by the plasma generation, is sufficient to cause rock fracturing, which is indicative of the onset of drilling success.

We find that rock fracturing occurs in simulations with a 100 \(\mu\)m. pore size and an imposed pulse voltage of approximately 400 kV. Furthermore, pulses with voltages lower than 400 kV induce damage near the electrodes, which expands from pulse to pulse, and eventually, rock fracturing occurs. Additionally, we find that the likelihood for fracturing increases with increasing pore voltage drop, which increases with pore size, electric pulse voltage, and rock effective relative permittivity while being inversely proportional to the rock porosity and pulse rise time.


Flow-through Drying during CO2 Injection into Brine-filled Natural Fractures: A Tale of Effective Normal Stress
Lima, M., H. Javanmard, D. Vogler, M.O. Saar, and X.-Z. Kong, International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control, 109, pp. 103378, 2021. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]Injecting supercritical CO2 (scCO2) into brine-filled fracture-dominated reservoirs causes brine displacement and possibly evaporite precipitations that alter the fracture space. Here, we report on isothermal near-field experiments on scCO2-induced flow-through drying in a naturally fractured granodiorite specimen under effective normal stresses of 5-10 MPa, where two drying regimes are identified. A novel approach is developed to delineate the evolution of brine saturation and relative permeability from fluid production and differential pressure measurements. Under higher compressive stresses, the derived relative permeability curves indicate lower mobility of brine and higher mobility of the scCO2 phase. The derived fractional flow curves also suggest an increase in channelling and a decrease in brine displacement efficiencies under higher compressive stresses. Finally, lowering compressive stresses seems to hinder water evaporation. Our experimental results assist in understanding the behaviour of the injectivity of fractures and fracture networks during subsurface applications that involve scCO2 injection into saline formations.
Quantification of natural CO2 emission through faults and fracture zones in coal basins
Ma, Y., X.-Z. Kong, C. Zhang, A. Scheuermann, D. Bringemeier, and L. Li, Geophysical Research Letters, 48, pp. e2021GL092693, 2021. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]With the presence of highly permeable pathways, such as faults and fractures zones, coal seam gases, particularly CO2, could potentially migrate upwardly from the coal deposits into the shallow subsurface and then to the atmosphere. This letter reports soil gas mapping and gamma ray survey in coal basin of Hunter River Valley, Australia. The survey facilitated the delineation of fault structures across the sampling regions, where the identified faults were confirmed by an independent drilling investigation later. Furthermore, to evaluate the gas emission fluxes from coalbeds through fault zones, the measured CO2 concentrations, coupled with an inverse modelling, enable the estimation of the width of the fault zone and associated CO2 emission flux in the range of 2×10\(^{-5}\)-6×10\(^{-5}\) mol/m\(^{2}\)/s at the study site. Our new approach provides a way to determine emissions of gases from deep formations, which may contribute considerably to the greenhouse gases cycles.
The Value of CO2-Bulk Energy Storage with Wind in Transmission-Constrained Electricity Systems
Ogland-Hand, J., J. Bielicki, B. Adams, E. Nelson, T. Buscheck, M.O. Saar, and R. Sioshansi, Energy Conversion and Management, 2021. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]High-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission infrastructure can transmit electricity from regions with high-quality variable wind and solar resources to those with high electricity demand. In these situations, bulk energy storage (BES) could beneficially increase the utilization of HVDC transmission capacity. Here, we investigate that benefit for an emerging BES approach that uses geologically stored CO2 and sedimentary basin geothermal resources to time-shift variable electricity production. For a realistic case study of a 1 GW wind farm in Eastern Wyoming selling electricity to Los Angeles, California (U.S.A.), our results suggest that a generic CO2-BES design can increase the utilization of the HVDC transmission capacity, thereby increasing total revenue across combinations of electricity prices, wind conditions, and geothermal heat depletion. The CO2-BES facility could extract geothermal heat, dispatch geothermally generated electricity, and time-shift wind-generated electricity. With CO2-BES, total revenue always increases and the optimal HVDC transmission capacity increases in some combinations. To be profitable, the facility needs a modest $7.78/tCO2 to $10.20/tCO2, because its cost exceeds the increase in revenue. This last result highlights the need for further research to understand how to design a CO2-BES facility that is tailored to the geologic setting and its intended role in the energy system.
Image-based modeling of spontaneous imbibition in porous media by a dynamic pore network model
Qin, C.-Z., H. van Brummelen, M. Hefny, and J. Zhao, Advances in Water Resources, pp. 103932, 2021. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]The dynamic pore-network modeling, as an efficient pore-scale tool, has been used to understand spontaneous imbibition in porous media, which plays an important role in many subsurface applications. In this work, we aim to compare a dynamic pore-network model of spontaneous imbibition with the VOF (volume of fluid) model. The μCT scanning of a porous medium of sintered glass beads is selected as our study domain. We extract its pore network by using an open-source software of PoreSpy, and further project the extracted information of individual watersheds into multiform idealized pore elements. A number of case studies of primary spontaneous imbibition have been conducted by using both the pore-network and the VOF models under different wettability values and viscosity ratios. We compare those model predictions in terms of imbibition rates and temporal saturation profiles along the flow direction. We show that the pore-network model can reproduce the VOF model results for an air-water system, in which water is the wetting phase. For a more viscous nonwetting phase such as oil, however, the pore-network model predicts a slower imbibition process and a rougher wetting front, in comparison to the predictions by the VOF model.
Heat Depletion in Sedimentary Basins and its Effect on the Design and Electric Power Output of CO2 Plume Geothermal (CPG) Systems
Adams, B.M., D. Vogler, T.H. Kuehn, J.M. Bielicki, N. Garapati, and M.O. Saar, Renewable Energy, 172, pp. 1393-1403, 2021. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]CO2 Plume Geothermal (CPG) energy systems circulate geologically stored CO2 to extract geothermal heat from naturally permeable sedimentary basins. CPG systems can generate more electricity than brine systems in geologic reservoirs with moderate temperature and permeability. Here, we numerically simulate the temperature depletion of a sedimentary basin and find the corresponding CPG electricity generation variation over time. We find that for a given reservoir depth, temperature, thickness, permeability, and well configuration, an optimal well spacing provides the largest average electric generation over the reservoir lifetime. If wells are spaced closer than optimal, higher peak electricity is generated, but the reservoir heat depletes more quickly. If wells are spaced greater than optimal, reservoirs maintain heat longer but have higher resistance to flow and thus lower peak electricity is generated. Additionally, spacing the wells 10% greater than optimal affects electricity generation less than spacing wells 10% closer than optimal. Our simulations also show that for a 300 m thick reservoir, a 707 m well spacing provides consistent electricity over 50 years, whereas a 300 m well spacing yields large heat and electricity reductions over time. Finally, increasing injection or production well pipe diameters does not necessarily increase average electric generation.
Verification of coupled hydraulic fracturing simulators using laboratory-scale experiments
Deb, P., S. Salimzadeh, D. Vogler, S. Düber, C. Clauser, and R. R. Settgast, Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering, pp. 1-22, 2021. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]In this work, we aim to verify the predictions of the numerical simulators, which are used for designing field-scale hydraulic stimulation experiments. Although a strong theoretical understanding of this process has been gained over the past few decades, numerical predictions of fracture propagation in low-permeability rocks still remains a challenge. Against this background, we performed controlled laboratory-scale hydraulic fracturing experiments in granite samples, which not only provides high-quality experimental data but also a well-characterized experimental set-up. Using the experimental pressure responses and the final fracture sizes as benchmark, we compared the numerical predictions of two coupled hydraulic fracturing simulators—CSMP and GEOS. Both the simulators reproduced the experimental pressure behavior by implementing the physics of Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics (LEFM) and lubrication theory within a reasonable degree of accuracy. The simulation results indicate that even in the very low-porosity (1–2%) and low-permeability ($10^{-18} m^2 - 10^{-19} m^2$) crystalline rocks, which are usually the target of EGS, fluid-loss into the matrix and unsaturated flow impacts the formation breakdown pressure and the post-breakdown pressure trends. Therefore, underestimation of such parameters in numerical modeling can lead to significant underestimation of breakdown pressure. The simulation results also indicate the importance of implementing wellbore solvers for considering the effect of system compressibility and pressure drop due to friction in the injection line. The varying injection rate as a result of decompression at the instant of fracture initiation affects the fracture size, while the entry friction at the connection between the well and the initial notch may cause an increase in the measured breakdown pressure.
No-Flow Fraction (NFF) permeability model for rough fractures under normal stress
Javanmard, H., A. Ebigbo, S.D.C. Walsh, M.O. Saar, and D. Vogler, Water Resources Research, 57/3, 2021. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]Flow through rock fractures is frequently represented using models that correct the cubic law to account for the effects of roughness and contact area. However, the scope of such models is often restricted to relatively smooth aperture fields under small confining stresses. This work studies the link between fracture permeability and fracture geometry under normal loads. Numerical experiments are performed to deform synthesized aperture fields of various correlation lengths and roughness values under normal stress. The results demonstrate that aperture roughness can more than triple for applied stresses up to 50 MPa – exceeding the valid range for roughness in most previously published models. Investigating the relationship between permeability and contact area indicates that the increase in flow obstructions due to the development of new contact points strongly depends on the correlation length of the unloaded aperture field. This study eliminates these dependencies by employing a parameter known as the No-Flow Fraction (NFF) to capture the effect of stagnation zones. With this concept, a new Cubic-law-based permeability model is proposed that significantly improves the accuracy of permeability estimations, compared to previous models. For cases, where the NFF is difficult to obtain, we introduce an empirical relationship to estimate the parameter from the aperture roughness. The new models yield permeability estimates accurate to within a factor of two of the simulated permeability in over three quarters of the 3000 deformed fractures studied. This compares with typical deviations of at least one order of magnitude for previously published permeability models.
Minimum Transmissivity and Optimal Well Spacing and Flow Rate for High-Temperature Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage
Birdsell, D. T., B. M. Adams, and M. O. Saar, Applied Energy, 289/116658, pp. 1-14, 2021. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]Aquifer thermal energy storage (ATES) is a time-shifting thermal energy storage technology where waste heat is stored in an aquifer for weeks or months until it may be used at the surface. It can reduce carbon emissions and HVAC costs. Low-temperature ($<25$ \degree C) aquifer thermal energy storage (LT-ATES) is already widely-deployed in central and northern Europe, and there is renewed interest in high-temperature ($>50$ \degree C) aquifer thermal energy storage (HT-ATES). However, it is unclear if LT-ATES guidelines for well spacing, reservoir depth, and transmissivity will apply to HT-ATES. We develop a thermo-hydro-mechanical-economic (THM\$) analytical framework to balance three reservoir-engineering and economic constraints for an HT-ATES doublet connected to a district heating network. We find the optimal well spacing and flow rate are defined by the ``reservoir constraints'' at shallow depth and low permeability and are defined by the ``economic constraints'' at great depth and high permeability. We find the optimal well spacing is 1.8 times the thermal radius. We find that the levelized cost of heat is minimized at an intermediate depth. The minimum economically-viable transmissivity (MEVT) is the transmissivity below which HT-ATES is sure to be economically unattractive. We find the MEVT is relatively insensitive to depth, reservoir thickness, and faulting regime. Therefore, it can be approximated as $5\cdot 10^{-13}$ m$^3$. The MEVT is useful for HT-ATES pre-assessment and can facilitate global estimates of HT-ATES potential.
Quantification of mineral accessible surface area and flow-dependent fluid-mineral reactivity at the pore scale
Ma, J., M. Ahkami, M.O. Saar, and X.-Z. Kong, Chemical Geology, 563, pp. 120042, 2021. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]Accessible surface areas (ASAs) of individual rock-forming minerals exert a fundamental control on the maximum mineral reactivity with formation fluids. Notably, ASA efficiency during fluid-rock reactions can vary by orders of magnitude, depending on the inflow fluid chemistry and the velocity field. Due to the lack of adequate quantification methods, determining the mineral-specific ASAs and their reaction efficiency still remain extremely difficult. Here, we first present a novel joint method that appropriately calculates ASAs of individual minerals in a multi-mineral sandstone. This joint method combines SEM-image processing results and Brunauer-Emmett-Teller (BET) surface area measurements by a Monte-Carlo algorithm to derive scaling factors and ASAs for individual minerals at the resolution of BET measurements. Using these atomic-scale ASAs, we then investigate the impact of flow rate on the ASA efficiency in mineral dissolution reactions during the injection of CO2-enriched brine. This is done by conducting a series of pore-scale reactive transport simulations, using a two-dimensional (2D) scanning electron microscopy (SEM) image of this sandstone. The ASA efficiency is determined employing a domain-averaged dissolution rate and the effective surface area of the most reactive phase in the sandstone (dolomite). As expected, the dolomite reactivity is found to increase with the flow rate, due to the on average high fluid reactivity. The surface efficiency increases slightly with the fluid flow rate, and reaches a relatively stable value of about 1%. The domain averaged method is then compared with the in-out averaged method (i.e the “Black-box” approach), which is often used to analyzed the experimental observations. The in-out averaged method yields a considerable overestimation of the fluid reactivity, a small underestimation of the dolomite reactivity, and a considerable underestimation of the ASA efficiency. The discrepancy between the two methods is becoming smaller when the injection rate increases. Our comparison suggests that the result interpretation of the in-out averaged method should be contemplated, in particular, when the flow rate is small. Nonetheless, our proposed ASA determination method should facilitate accurate calculations of fluid-mineral reactivity in large-scale reactive transport simulations, and we advise that an upscaling of the ASA efficiency needs to be carefully considered, due to the low surface efficiency.
Integrated magnetotelluric and petrological analysis of felsic magma reservoirs: Insights from Ethiopian rift volcanoes
Samrock, F., A.V. Grayver, O. Bachmann, Ö. Karakas, and M.O. Saar, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 559/116765, 2021. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]Geophysical and petrological probes are key to understanding the structure and the thermochemical state of active magmatic systems. Recent advances in laboratory analyses, field investigations and numerical methods have allowed increasingly complex data-constraint models with new insights into magma plumbing systems and melt evolution. However, there is still a need for methods to quantitatively link geophysical and petrological observables for a more consistent description of magmatic processes at both micro- and macro-scales. Whilst modern geophysical studies provide detailed 3-D subsurface images that help to characterize magma reservoirs by relating state variables with physical material properties, constraints from on-site petrological analyses and thermodynamic modelling of melt evolution are at best incorporated qualitatively. Here, we combine modelling of phase equilibria in cooling magma and laboratory measurements of electrical properties of melt to derive the evolution of electrical conductivity in a crystallizing silicic magmatic system. We apply this framework to 3-D electrical conductivity images from magnetotelluric studies of two volcanoes in the Ethiopian Rift. The presented approach enables us to constrain key variables such as melt content, temperature and magmatic volatile abundance at depth. Our study shows that accounting for magmatic volatiles as an independent phase is crucial for understanding electrical conductivity structures in magma reservoirs at an advanced state of crystallization. Furthermore, our results deepen the understanding of the mechanisms behind volcanic unrest and help assess the long-term potential of hydrothermal reservoirs for geothermal energy production.
Verification benchmarks for single-phase flow in three-dimensional fractured porous media
Berre, I., W. M. Boon, B. Flemisch, A. Fumagalli, D. Gläser, E. Keilegavlen, A. Scotti, I. Stefansson, et al., P. Schädle, and et al., Advances in Water Resources, 147, pp. 103759, 2021. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]Flow in fractured porous media occurs in the earth’s subsurface, in biological tissues, and in man-made materials. Fractures have a dominating influence on flow processes, and the last decade has seen an extensive development of models and numerical methods that explicitly account for their presence. To support these developments, we present a portfolio of four benchmark cases for single-phase flow in three-dimensional fractured porous media. The cases are specifically designed to test the methods’ capabilities in handling various complexities common to the geometrical structures of fracture networks. Based on an open call for participation, results obtained with 17 numerical methods were collected. This paper presents the underlying mathematical model, an overview of the features of the participating numerical methods, and their performance in solving the benchmark cases.