Martin Saar Publications Content


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Schifflechner, C., J. de Reus, S. Schuster, A. Corpancho Villasana, D. Brillert, M.O. Saar, and H. Spliethoff, Paving the way for CO2-Plume Geothermal (CPG) systems: A perspective on the CO2 surface equipment, Energy, 305, 2024. [Download] [View Abstract]Subsurface reservoirs play an important role in decarbonizing the energy sector, be it through geothermal energy production or carbon capture and storage. In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in CO2-Plume Geothermal systems, which combine carbon sequestration with geothermal, using CO2 instead of water as a subsurface heat and pressure energy carrier. Since CO2-Plume Geothermal systems are added to full-scale CO2 Capture and Sequestration operations, all of the initially injected CO2 is ultimately stored. CO2-Plume Geothermal, therefore constitutes of both CO2 Capture Utilization as well as Storage. This paper assesses the huge technical potential of this technology, identifying a potentially highly relevant market for CO2 equipment manufacturers and discusses the current research demand, based on the current state of the art of CO2 equipment. Both temperature and pressure levels are significantly lower than CO2 turbine designs investigated and proposed so far for other applications, such as waste heat recovery. For a depth of 5 km, a typical one-stage radial turbine design might have a rotational speed of 23’000 rpm to 42’000 rpm and an impeller diameter between 96 mm to 155 mm. Together with technology-specific requirements, due to produced fluid impurities, it becomes evident that significant further development efforts are still necessary.

Schifflechner, C., A.J. de Reus, S. Schuster, A.C. Villasana, D. Brillert, M.O. Saar, and H. Spliethoff, Paving the way for CO2-Plume Geothermal (CPG) systems: A perspective on the CO2 surface equipment, Energy, 305, 2024. [Download] [View Abstract]Subsurface reservoirs play an important role in decarbonizing the energy sector, be it through geothermal energy production or carbon capture and storage. In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in CO2-Plume Geothermal systems, which combine carbon sequestration with geothermal, using CO2 instead of water as a subsurface heat and pressure energy carrier. Since CO2-Plume Geothermal systems are added to full-scale CO2 Capture and Sequestration operations, all of the initially injected CO2 is ultimately stored. CO2-Plume Geothermal, therefore constitutes of both CO2 Capture Utilization as well as Storage. This paper assesses the huge technical potential of this technology, identifying a potentially highly relevant market for CO2 equipment manufacturers and discusses the current research demand, based on the current state of the art of CO2 equipment. Both temperature and pressure levels are significantly lower than CO2 turbine designs investigated and proposed so far for other applications, such as waste heat recovery. For a depth of 5 km, a typical one-stage radial turbine design might have a rotational speed of 23’000 rpm to 42’000 rpm and an impeller diameter between 96 mm to 155 mm. Together with technology-specific requirements, due to produced fluid impurities, it becomes evident that significant further development efforts are still necessary.

Ezzat, M., J. Beorner, E. Kammermann, E. Rossi, B.M. Adams, V. Wittig, J. Biela, H-O. Schiegg, D. Vogler, and M.O. Saar, Impact of Temperature on the Performance of Plasma-Pulse Geo-Drilling (PPGD), Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering, 2024. [Download] [View Abstract]Advanced Geothermal Systems (AGS) may in principle be able to satisfy the global energy demand using standard continental-crust geothermal temperature gradients of 25-35◦C/km. However, conventional mechanical rotary drilling is still too expensive to cost-competitively provide the required borehole depths and lengths for AGS. This highlights the need for a new, cheaper drilling technology, such as Plasma-Pulse Geo-Drilling (PPGD), to improve the economic feasibility of AGS. PPGD is a rather new drilling method and is based on nanoseconds-long, high-voltage pulses to fracture the rock without mechanical abrasion. The absence of mechanical abrasion prolongs the bit lifetime, thereby increasing the penetration rate. Laboratory experiments under ambient-air conditions and comparative analyses (which assume drilling at a depth between 3.5 km and 4.5 km) have shown that PPGD may reduce drilling costs by approximately 17-23%, compared to the costs of mechanical drilling, while further research and development are expected to reduce PPGD costs further. However, the performance of the PPGD process under deep wellbore conditions, i.e., at elevated temperatures as well as elevated lithostatic and hydrostatic pressures, has yet to be systematically tested. In this paper, we introduce a standard experiment parameter to examine the impact of deep wellbore conditions on drilling performance, namely the productivity (the excavated rock volume per pulse) and the specific energy, the latter being the amount of energy required to drill a unit volume of rock. We employ these parameters to investigate the effect of temperature on PPGD performance, with temperatures increasing up to 80◦C, corresponding to a drilling depth of up to approximately 3 km.

Sookhak Lari, K., G. Davis, A. Kumar, J. Rayner, X.-Z. Kong, and M.O. Saar, The Dynamics of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) at Interfaces in Porous Media: A Computational Roadmap from Nanoscale Molecular Dynamics Simulation to Macroscale Modeling, ACS Omega, 2024. [Download] [View Abstract]Managing and remediating perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) contaminated sites remains challenging. The major reasons are the complexity of geological media, partly unknown dynamics of the PFAS in different phases and at fluid− fluid and fluid−solid interfaces, and the presence of cocontaminants such as nonaqueous phase liquids (NAPLs). Critical knowledge gaps exist in understanding the behavior and fate of PFAS in vadose and saturated zones and in other porous media such as concrete and asphalt. The complexity of PFAS−surface interactions warrants the use of advanced characterization and computational tools to understand and quantify nanoscale behavior of the molecules. This can then be upscaled to the microscale to develop a constitutive relationship, in particular to distinguish between surface and bulk diffusion. The dominance of surface diffusion compared to bulk diffusion results in the solutocapillary Marangoni effect, which has not been considered while investigating the fate of PFAS. Without a deep understanding of these phenomena, derivation of constitutive relationships is challenging. The current Darcy scale mass-transfer models use constitutive relationships derived from either experiments or field measurements, which makes their applicability potentially limited. Here we review current efforts and propose a roadmap for developing Darcy scale transport equations for PFAS. We find that this needs to be based on systematic upscaling of both experimental and computational studies from nano- to microscales. We highlight recent efforts to undertake molecular dynamics simulations on problems with similar levels of complexity and explore the feasibility of conducting nanoscale simulations on PFAS dynamics at the interface of fluid pairs.

Dambly, M.L.T., F. Samrock, A. Grayver, H. Eysteinsson , and M.O. Saar, Geophysical imaging of the active magmatic intrusion and geothermal reservoir formation beneath the Corbetti prospect, Main Ethiopian Rift , Geophysical Journal International, 236, pp. 1764-1781, 2024. [Download] [View Abstract]Silicic volcanic complexes in the Main Ethiopian Rift (MER) system host long-lived shallow magma reservoirs that provide heat needed to drive geothermal systems. Some of these geothermal systems in Ethiopia appear to be suitable for green and sustainable electricity generation. One such prospect is located at the Corbetti volcanic complex near the city of Awassa. High-resolution imaging of the subsurface below Corbetti is of imminent importance, not only because of its geothermal potential, but also due to reported evidence for an ongoing magmatic intrusion. In this study, we present a new subsurface 3-D electrical conductivity model of Corbetti obtained through the inversion of 120 magnetotelluric stations. The model elucidates a magmatic system under Corbetti and reveals that it is linked to a magma ponding zone in the lower crust. Magma is transported through the crust and accumulates in a shallow reservoir in form of a magmatic mush at a depth of 4 kmb.s.l. below the caldera. The imaged extent and depth of the shallow magma reservoir is in agreement with previous geodetic and gravimetric studies that proposed an ongoing magmatic intrusion. Interpreting our model with laboratory-based conductivity models for basaltic and rhyolitic melt compositions suggests that Corbetti is seemingly in a non-eruptible state with∼6–16 vol. percent basaltic melt in the lower crust and∼20–35 vol. percent rhyolitic melt in the upper crust. With these observations, Corbetti’s magmatic system shares common characteristics with volcanic complexes found in the central MER. Specifically, these volcanic complexes are transcrustal two-stage magmatic systems with magma storage in the lower and upper crust that supply heat for volcano-hosted high-temperature geothermal systems above them. According to the presented subsurface model, a cross-rift volcano-tectonic lineament exerts first-order controls on the magma emplacement and hydrothermal convection at Corbetti. Our study depicts hydrothermal convection pathways in unprecedented detail for this system and helps identify prospective regions for future geothermal exploration. 3-D imaging of both the Corbetti’s magmatic and associated geothermal systems provides key information for the quantitative evaluation of Corbetti’s geothermal energy potential and for the assessment of potential volcanic risks.

Birdsell, D. T., B.M. Adams, P. Deb, J.D. Ogland-Hand, J.M. Bielicki, M.R. Fleming, and M.O. Saar, Analytical solutions to evaluate the geothermal energy generation potential from sedimentary-basin reservoirs, Geothermics, 116, pp. 102843, 2024. [Download] [View Abstract]Sedimentary basins are attractive for geothermal development due to their ubiquitous presence, high permeability, and extensive lateral extent. Geothermal energy from sedimentary basins has mostly been used for direct heating purposes due to their relatively low temperatures, compared to conventional hydrothermal systems. However, there is an increasing interest in using sedimentary geothermal energy for electric power generation due to the advances in conversion technologies using binary cycles that allow electricity generation from reservoir temperatures as low as 80 °C. This work develops and implements analytical solutions for calculating reservoir impedance, reservoir heat depletion, and wellbore heat loss in sedimentary reservoirs that are laterally extensive, homogeneous, horizontally isotropic and have uniform thickness. Reservoir impedance and wellbore heat loss solutions are combined with a power cycle model to estimate the electricity generation potential. Results from the analytical solutions are in good agreement with numerically computed reservoir models. Our results suggest that wellbore heat loss can be neglected in many cases of electricity generation calculations, depending on the reservoir transmissivity. The reservoir heat depletion solution shows how reservoir temperature and useful lifetime behave as a function of flow rate, initial heat within the reservoir, and heat conduction from the surroundings to the reservoir. Overall, our results suggest that in an exploratory sedimentary geothermal field, these analytical solutions can provide reliable first order estimations without incurring intensive computational costs.

Dambly, M.L.T., F. Samrock, A. Grayver, and M.O. Saar, Insights on the interplay of rifting, transcrustal magmatism and formation of geothermal resources in the central segment of the Ethiopian Rift revealed by 3-D magnetotelluric imaging, Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 128, 2023. [Download] [View Abstract]The Main Ethiopian Rift is accompanied by extensive volcanism and the formation of geothermal systems, both having a direct impact on the lives of millions of inhabitants. Although previous studies in the region found evidence that asthenospheric upwelling and associated decompression melting provide melt to magmatic systems that feed the tectono-magmatic segments in the rift valley, there is a lack of geophysical models imaging these regional and local scale transcrustal structures. To address this challenge, we use the magnetotelluric method and image subsurface electrical conductivity to examine the magmatic roots of Aluto volcano, quantify and interpret the melt distribution in the crust considering established concepts of continental rifting processes and constrain the formed geotherma system. Specifically, we combined regional (maximum 30 × 120 km2) and local (15 × 15 km2) magnetotelluric data sets and obtained the first multi-scale 3-D electrical conductivity model of a segment of the central Main Ethiopian Rift. The model unravels a magma ponding zone with up to 7 vol. % melt at the base of the crust (30 − 35 km b.s.l.) in the western part of the rift and its connection to Aluto volcano via a fault-aligned transcrustal magma system. Melt accumulates at shallow crustal depths (≥ 4 km b.s.l.), thereby providing heat for Aluto’s geothermal system. Our model suggests that different volcano-tectonic lineaments in the rift valley share a common melt source. The presented model provides new constraints on the melt distribution below a segment of the rift which is important for future geothermal developments and volcanic hazard assessments in the region.

Huang, P.-W., B. Flemisch, C.-Z. Qin, M.O. Saar, and A. Ebigbo, Validating the Nernst–Planck transport model under reaction-driven flow conditions using RetroPy v1.0, Geoscientific Model Development, 16, pp. 4767-4791, 2023. [Download] [View Abstract]Reactive transport processes in natural environments often involve many ionic species. The diffusivities of ionic species vary. Since assigning different diffusivities in the advection-diffusion equation leads to charge imbalance, a single diffusivity is usually used for all species. In this work, we apply the Nernst–Planck equation, which resolves unequal diffusivities of the species in an electroneutral manner, to model reactive transport. To demonstrate the advantages of the Nernst–Planck model, we compare the simulation results of transport under reaction-driven flow conditions using the Nernst–Planck model with those of the commonly used single-diffusivity model. All simulations are also compared to well-defined experiments on the scale of centimeters. Our results show that the Nernst–Planck model is valid and particularly relevant for modeling reactive transport processes with an intricate interplay among diffusion, reaction, electromigration, and density-driven convection.

Samrock, F., A. Grayver, M.L.T. Dambly, M.R. Müller, and M.O. Saar, Geophysically guided well siting at the Aluto-Langano geothermal reservoir, Geophysics, 88, pp. 1-43, 2023. [Download] [View Abstract]Volcano-hosted high-temperature geothermal reservoirs are powerful resources for green electricity generation. In regions where such resources are available, geothermal energy often provides a large share of a country’s total power generation capacity. Sustainable geothermal energy utilization depends on the successful siting of geothermal wells, which in turn depends on prior geophysical subsurface imaging and reservoir characterization. Electromagnetic resistivity imaging methods have proven to be a key tool for characterizing magma-driven geothermal systems because resistivity is sensitive to the presence of melt and clays that form through hydrothermal alteration. Special emphasis is often given to the “clay cap,” which forms on top of hydrothermal reservoirs along the flow paths of convecting geothermal fluids. As an example, the Aluto-Langano volcanic geothermal field in Ethiopia was covered with 178 densely spaced magnetotelluric (MT) stations. The 3D electrical conductivity model derived from the MT data images the magma body that acts as a heat source of the geothermal system, controlling geothermal convection and formation of alteration zones (commonly referred to as clay cap) atop the geothermal reservoir. Detailed 3D imaging of the clay cap topography can provide direct insight into hydrothermal flow patterns and help identify potential “upflow” zones. At Aluto all productive geothermal wells were drilled into zones of clay cap thinning and updoming, which is indicative of underlying hydrothermal upflow zones. In contrast, nonproductive wells were drilled into zones of clay cap thickening and lowering, which is an indicator for underlying “outflow” zones and cooling. This observation is linked to fundamental characteristics of volcano-hosted systems and can likely be adapted to other geothermal fields where sufficiently detailed MT surveys are available. Therefore, high-resolution 3D electromagnetic imaging of hydrothermal alteration products (clay caps) can be used to infer the hydrothermal flow patterns in geothermal reservoirs and contribute to derisking geothermal drilling projects.

Kong, X.-Z., M. Ahkami, I. Naets, and M.O. Saar, The role of high-permeability inclusion on solute transport in a 3D-printed fractured porous medium: An LIF-PIV integrated study, Transport in Porous Media, 2023. [Download] [View Abstract]It is well-known that the presence of geometry heterogeneity in porous media enhances solute mass mixing due to fluid velocity heterogeneity. However, laboratory measurements are still sparse on characterization of the role of high-permeability inclusions on solute transport, in particularly concerning fractured porous media. In this study, the transport of solutes is quantified after a pulse-like injection of soluble fluorescent dye into a 3D-printed fractured porous medium with distinct high-permeability (H-k) inclusions. The solute concentration and the pore-scale fluid velocity are determined using laser-induced fluorescence and particle image velocimetry techniques. The migration of solute is delineated with its breakthrough curve (BC), temporal and spatial moments, and mixing metrics (including the scalar dissipation rate, the volumetric dilution index, and the flux-related dilution index) in different regions of the medium. With the same H-k inclusions, compared to a H-k matrix, the low-permeability (L-k) matrix displays a higher peak in its BC, less solute mass retention, a higher peak solute velocity, a smaller peak dispersion coefficient, a lower mixing rate, and a smaller pore volume being occupied by the solute. The flux-related dilution index clearly captures the striated solute plume tails following the streamlines along dead-end fractures and along the interface between the H-k and L-k matrices. We propose a normalization of the scalar dissipation rate and the volumetric dilution index with respect to the maximum regional total solute mass, which offers a generalized examination of solute mixing for an open region with a varying total solute mass. Our study presents insights into the interplay between the geometric features of the fractured porous medium and the solute transport behaviors at the pore scale.

Li, Z., X. Ma, X.-Z. Kong, M.O. Saar, and D. Vogler, Permeability evolution during pressure-controlled shear slip in saw-cut and natural granite fractures, Rock Mechanics Bulletin, 2023. [Download] [View Abstract]Fluid injection into rock masses is involved during various subsurface engineering applications. However, elevated fluid pressure, induced by injection, can trigger shear slip(s) of pre-existing natural fractures, resulting in changes of the rock mass permeability and thus injectivity. However, the mechanism of slip-induced permeability variation, particularly when subjected to multiple slips, is still not fully understood. In this study, we performed laboratory experiments to investigate the fracture permeability evolution induced by shear slip in both saw-cut and natural fractures with rough surfaces. Our experiments show that compared to saw-cut fractures, natural fractures show much small effective stress when the slips induced by triggering fluid pressures, likely due to the much rougher surface of the natural fractures. For natural fractures, we observed that a critical shear displacement value in the relationship between permeability and accumulative shear displacement: the permeability of natural fractures initially increases, followed by a permeability decrease after the accumulative shear displacement reaches a critical shear displacement value. For the saw-cut fractures, there is no consistent change in the measured permeability versus the accumulative shear displacement, but the first slip event often induces the largest shear displacement and associated permeability changes. The produced gouge material suggests that rock surface damage occurs during multiple slips, although, unfortunately, our experiments did not allow quantitatively continuous monitoring of fracture surface property changes. Thus, we attribute the slip-induced permeability evolution to the interplay between permeability reductions, due to damages of fracture asperities, and permeability enhancements, caused by shear dilation, depending on the scale of the shear displacement.

van Brummen, A.C., B.M. Adams, R. Wu, J.D. Ogland-Hand, and M.O. Saar, Using CO2-Plume Geothermal (CPG) Energy Technologies to Support Wind and Solar Power in Renewable-Heavy Electricity Systems, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Transition, 2, 2022. [Download] [View Abstract]CO2-Plume Geothermal (CPG) technologies are geothermal power systems that use geologically stored CO2 as the subsurface heat extraction fluid to generate renewable energy. CPG technologies can support variable wind and solar energy technologies by providing dispatchable power, while Flexible CPG (CPG- F) facilities can provide dispatchable power, energy storage, or both simultaneously. We present the first study investigating how CPG power plants and CPG-F facilities may operate as part of a renewable- heavy electricity system by integrating plant-level power plant models with systems-level optimization models. We use North Dakota, USA as a case study to demonstrate the potential of CPG to expand the geothermal resource base to locations not typically considered for geothermal power. We find that optimal system capacity for a solar-wind-CPG model can be up to 20 times greater than peak- demand. CPG-F facilities can reduce this modeled system capacity to just over 2 times peak demand by providing energy storage over both seasonal and short-term timescales. The operational flexibility of CPG-F facilities is further leveraged to bypass the ambient air temperature constraint of CPG power plants by storing energy at critical temperatures. Across all scenarios, a tax on CO2 emissions, on the order of hundreds of dollars per tonne, is required to financially justify using renewable energy over natural-gas power plants. Our findings suggest that CPG and CPG-F technologies may play a valuable role in future renewable-heavy electricity systems, and we propose a few recommendations to further study its integration potential.

Ma, X., et al., M.O. Saar, and et al., Multi-disciplinary characterizations of the BedrettoLab – a new underground geoscience research facility, Solid Earth, 13, pp. 301-322, 2022. [Download] [View Abstract]The increased interest in subsurface development (e.g., unconventional hydrocarbon, engineered geothermal systems (EGSs), waste disposal) and the associated (trig- gered or induced) seismicity calls for a better understand- ing of the hydro-seismo-mechanical coupling in fractured rock masses. Being able to bridge the knowledge gap be- tween laboratory and reservoir scales, controllable meso- scale in situ experiments are deemed indispensable. In an effort to access and instrument rock masses of hectometer size, the Bedretto Underground Laboratory for Geosciences and Geoenergies (“BedrettoLab”) was established in 2018 in the existing Bedretto Tunnel (Ticino, Switzerland), with an average overburden of 1000 m. In this paper, we introduce the BedrettoLab, its general setting and current status. Com- bined geological, geomechanical and geophysical methods were employed in a hectometer-scale rock mass explored by several boreholes to characterize the in situ conditions and internal structures of the rock volume. The rock volume fea- tures three distinct units, with the middle fault zone sand- wiched by two relatively intact units. The middle fault zone unit appears to be a representative feature of the site, as sim- ilar structures repeat every several hundreds of meters along the tunnel. The lithological variations across the character- ization boreholes manifest the complexity and heterogene- ity of the rock volume and are accompanied by compart- mentalized hydrostructures and significant stress rotations. With this complexity, the characterized rock volume is con- sidered characteristic of the heterogeneity that is typically encountered in subsurface exploration and development. The BedrettoLab can adequately serve as a test-bed that allows for in-depth study of the hydro-seismo-mechanical response of fractured crystalline rock masses.

Javanmard, H., M. O. Saar, and D. Vogler, On the applicability of connectivity metrics to rough fractures under normal stress, Advances in Water Resources, 161/104122, 2022. [Download] [View Abstract]Rough rock fractures have complex geometries which result in highly heterogeneous aperture fields. To accurately estimate the permeability of such fractures, heterogeneity of the aperture fields must be quantified. In this study heterogeneity of single rough rock fractures is for the first time parametrized by connectivity metrics, which quantify how connected the bounds of a heterogeneous field are. We use 3000 individual realizations of synthetic aperture fields with different statistical parameters and compute three connectivity metrics based on percolation theory for each realization. The sensitivity of the connectivity metrics with respect to the determining parameter, i.e the cutoff threshold, is studied and the correlation between permeability of the fractures and the computed connectivity metrics is presented. The results show that the $Theta$ connectivity metric predicts the permeability with higher accuracy. All three studied connectivity metrics provide better permeability estimations when a larger aperture value is chosen as the cutoff threshold. Overall, this study elucidates that using connectivity metrics provides a less expensive alternative to fluid flow simulations when an estimation of fracture permeability is desired.

Huang, P.-W., B. Flemisch, C.-Z. Qin, M.O. Saar, and A. Ebigbo, Relating Darcy-scale chemical reaction order to pore-scale spatial heterogeneity, Transport in Porous Media, 2022. [Download] [View Abstract]Due to spatial scaling effects, there is a discrepancy in mineral dissolution rates measured at different spatial scales. Many reasons for this spatial scaling effect can be given. We investigate one such reason, i.e., how pore-scale spatial heterogeneity in porous media affects overall mineral dissolution rates. Using the bundle-of-tubes model as an analogy for porous media, we show that the Darcy-scale reaction order increases as the statistical similarity between the pore sizes and the effective-surface-area ratio of the porous sample decreases. The analytical results quantify mineral spatial heterogeneity using the Darcy-scale reaction order and give a mechanistic explanation to the usage of reaction order in Darcy-scale modeling. The relation is used as a constitutive relation of reactive transport at the Darcy scale. We test the constitutive relation by simulating flow-through experiments. The proposed constitutive relation is able to model the solute breakthrough curve of the simulations. Our results imply that we can infer mineral spatial heterogeneity of a porous media using measured solute concentration over time in a flow-through dissolution experiment.

Kyas, S., D. Volpatto, M.O. Saar, and A.M.M. Leal, Accelerated reactive transport simulations in heterogeneous porous media using Reaktoro and Firedrake, Computational Geosciences, 26, pp. 295-327, 2022. [Download] [View Abstract]This work investigates the performance of the on-demand machine learning (ODML) algorithm introduced in Leal et al. (2020) when applied to different reactive transport problems in heterogeneous porous media. This approach was devised to accelerate the computationally expensive geochemical reaction calculations in reactive transport simulations. We demonstrate that even with strong heterogeneity present, the ODML algorithm speeds up these calculations by one to three orders of magnitude. Such acceleration, in turn, significantly advances the entire reactive transport simulation. The performed numerical experiments are enabled by the novel coupling of two open-source software packages: Reaktoro (Leal, 2015) and Firedrake (Rathgeber et al., 2016). The first library provides the most recent version of the ODML approach for the chemical equilibrium calculations, whereas, the second framework includes the newly implemented conservative Discontinuous Galerkin finite element scheme for the Darcy problem, i.e., the Stabilized Dual Hybrid Mixed (SDHM) method (Núñez et al., 2012).

Naets, I., M. Ahkami, P.-W. Huang, M. O. Saar, and X.-Z. Kong, Shear induced fluid flow path evolution in rough-wall fractures: A particle image velocimetry examination, Journal of Hydrology, 610/127793, 2022. [Download] [View Abstract]Rough-walled fractures in rock masses, as preferential pathways, largely influence fluid flow, solute and energy transport. Previous studies indicate that fracture aperture fields could be significantly modified due to shear displacement along fractures. We report experimental observations and quantitative analyses of flow path evolution within a single fracture, induced by shear displacement. Particle image velocimetry and refractive index matching techniques were utilized to determine fluid velocity fields inside a transparent 3D-printed shear-able rough fracture. Our analysis indicate that aperture variability and correlation length increase with the increasing shear displacement, and they are the two key parameters, which govern the increases in velocity variability, velocity longitudinal correlation length, streamline tortuosity, and variability of streamline spacing. The increase in aperture heterogeneity significantly impacts fluid flow behaviors, whilst changes in aperture correlation length further refine these impacts. To our best knowledge, our study is the first direct measurements of fluid velocity fields and provides insights into the impact of fracture shear on flow behavior.

Sakha, M., M. Nejati, A. Aminzadeh, S. Ghouli, M.O. Saar, and T. Driesner, On the validation of mixed-mode I/II crack growth theories for anisotropic rocks, International Journal of Solids and Structures, 241/111484, 2022. [Download] [View Abstract]We evaluate the accuracy of three well-known fracture growth theories to predict crack trajectories in anisotropic rocks through comparison with new experimental data. The results of 99 fracture toughness tests on the metamorphic Grimsel Granite under four different ratios of mixed-mode I/II loadings are reported. For each ratio, the influence of the anisotropy orientation on the direction of fracture growth is also analyzed. Our results show that for certain loading configurations, the anisotropy offsets the loading influence in determining the direction of crack growth, whereas in other configurations, these factors reinforce each other. To evaluate the accuracy of the fracture growth theories, we compare the experiment results for the kink angle and the effective fracture toughness with the predictions of the maximum tangential stress (MTS), the maximum energy release rate (MERR), and the maximum strain energy density (MSED) criteria. The criteria are first assessed in their classical forms employed in the literature. It is demonstrated that the energy-based criteria in their classical formulation cannot yield good predictions. We then present modified forms of the ERR and SED functions in which the tensile and shear components are decomposed. These modified forms give significantly better predictions of fracture growth paths. The evaluation of the three criteria illustrates that the modified MSED criterion is the least accurate model even in the modified form, while the results predicted by MTS and modified MERR are well matched with the experimental results.

Ogland-Hand, J.D., S.M. Cohen, R.M. Kammer, K.M. Ellett, M.O. Saar, and J.A. Bennett, The Importance of Modeling Carbon Dioxide Transportation and Geologic Storage in Energy System Planning Tools, Frontiers, 10/855105, 2022. [Download] [View Abstract]Energy system planning tools suggest that the cost and feasibility of climate-stabilizing energy transitions are sensitive to the cost of CO2 capture and storage processes (CCS), but the representation of CO2 transportation and geologic storage in these tools is often simple or non-existent. We develop the capability of producing dynamic-reservoir-simulation-based geologic CO2 storage supply curves with the Sequestration of CO2 Tool (SCO2T) and use it with the ReEDS electric sector planning model to investigate the effects of CO2 transportation and geologic storage representation on energy system planning tool results. We use a locational case study of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) region. Our results suggest that the cost of geologic CO2 storage may be as low as $3/tCO2 and that site-level assumptions may affect this cost by several dollars per tonne. At the grid level, the cost of geologic CO2 storage has generally smaller effects compared to other assumptions (e.g., natural gas price), but small variations in this cost can change results (e.g., capacity deployment decisions) when policy renders CCS marginally competitive. The cost of CO2 transportation generally affects the location of geologic CO2 storage investment more than the quantity of CO2 captured or the location of electricity generation investment. We conclude with a few recommendations for future energy system researchers when modeling CCS. For example, assuming a cost for geologic CO2 storage (e.g., $5/tCO2) may be less consequential compared to assuming free storage by excluding it from the model.

Ge, S., and M.O. Saar, Review: Induced Seismicity during Geoenergy Development - a Hydromechanical Perspective, Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 127/e2021JB02314, 2022. [Download] [View Abstract]The basic triggering mechanism underlying induced seismicity traces back to the mid-1960s that relied on the process of pore-fluid pressure diffusion. The last decade has experienced a renaissance of induced seismicity research and data proliferation. An unprecedent opportunity is presented to us to synthesize the robust growth in knowledge. The objective of this paper is to provide a concise review of the triggering mechanisms of induced earthquakes with a focus on hydro-mechanical processes. Four mechanisms are reviewed: pore-fluid pressure diffusion, poroelastic stress, Coulomb static stress transfer, and aseismic slip. For each, an introduction of the concept is presented, followed by case studies. Diving into these mechanisms sheds light on several outstanding questions. For example, why did some earthquakes occur far from fluid injection or after injection stopped? Our review converges on the following conclusions: (1) Pore-fluid pressure diffusion remains a basic mechanism for initiating inducing seismicity in the near-field. (2) Poroelastic stresses and aseismic slip play an important role in inducing seismicity in regions beyond the influence of pore-fluid pressure diffusion. (3) Coulomb static stress transfer from earlier seismicity is shown to be a viable mechanism for increasing stresses on mainshock faults. (4) Multiple mechanisms have operated concurrently or consecutively at most induced seismicity sites. (5) Carbon dioxide injection is succeeding without inducing earthquakes and much can be learned from its success. Future research opportunities exist in deepening the understanding of physical and chemical processes in the nexus of geoenergy development and fluid motion in the Earth’s crust.

Malek, A.E., B.M. Adams, E. Rossi, H.O. Schiegg, and M.O. Saar, Techno-economic analysis of Advanced Geothermal Systems (AGS), Renewable Energy, 2022. [Download] [View Abstract]Advanced Geothermal Systems (AGS) generate electric power through a closed-loop circuit, after a working fluid extracts thermal energy from rocks at great depths via conductive heat transfer from the geologic formation to the working fluid through an impermeable wellbore wall. The slow conductive heat transfer rate present in AGS, compared to heat advection, makes AGS uneconomical to this date. To investigate what would be required to render AGS economical, we numerically model an example AGS using the genGEO simulator to obtain its electric power generation and its specific capital cost. Our numerical results show that using CO2 as the working fluid benefits AGS performance. Additionally, we find that there exists a working fluid mass flowrate, a lateral well length, and a wellbore diameter which minimize AGS costs. However, our results also show that AGS remain uneconomical with current, standard drilling technologies. Therefore, significant advancements in drilling technologies, that have the potential to reduce drilling costs by over 50%, are required to enable cost-competitive AGS implementations. Despite these challenges, the economic viability and societal acceptance potential of AGS are significantly raised when considering that negative externalities and their costs, so common for most other power plants, are practically non-existent with AGS.

Ezzat, M., B. M. Adams, M.O. Saar, and D. Vogler, Numerical Modeling of the Effects of Pore Characteristics on the Electric Breakdown of Rock for Plasma Pulse Geo Drilling, Energies, 15/1, 2022. [Download] [View Abstract]Drilling costs can be 80% of geothermal project investment, so decreasing these deep drilling costs substantially reduces overall project costs, contributing to less expensive geothermal electricity or heat generation. Plasma Pulse Geo Drilling (PPGD) is a contactless drilling technique that uses high-voltage pulses to fracture the rock without mechanical abrasion, which may reduce drilling costs by up to 90% of conventional mechanical rotary drilling costs. However, further development of PPGD requires a better understanding of the underlying fundamental physics, specifically the dielectric breakdown of rocks with pore fluids subjected to high-voltage pulses. This paper presents a numerical model to investigate the effects of the pore characteristics (i.e., pore fluid, shape, size, and pressure) on the occurrence of the local electric breakdown (i.e., plasma formation in the pore fluid) inside the granite pores and thus on PPGD efficiency. Investigated are: (i) two pore fluids, consisting of air (gas) or liquid water; (ii) three pore shapes, i.e., ellipses, circles, and squares; (iii) pore sizes ranging from 10 to 150 μm; (iv) pore pressures ranging from 0.1 to 2.5 MPa. The study shows how the investigated pore characteristics affect the local electric breakdown and, consequently, the PPGD process.

Fleming, M.R., B.M. Adams, J.D. Ogland-Hand, J.M. Bielicki, T.H. Kuehn, and M.O. Saar, Flexible CO2-Plume Geothermal (CPG-F): Using Geologically Stored CO2 to Provide Dispatchable Power and Energy Storage, Energy Conversion and Management, 253/115082, 2022. [Download] [View Abstract]CO2-Plume Geothermal (CPG) power plants can use geologically stored CO2 to generate electricity. In this study, a Flexible CO2 Plume Geothermal (CPG-F) facility is introduced, which can use geologically stored CO2 to provide dispatchable power, energy storage, or both dispatchable power and energy storage simultaneously—providing baseload power with dispatchable storage for demand response. It is found that a CPG-F facility can deliver more power than a CPG power plant, but with less daily energy production. For example, the CPG-F facility produces 7.2 MWe for 8 hours (8h-16h duty cycle), which is 190% greater than power supplied from a CPG power plant, but the daily energy decreased by 61% from 60 MWe-h to 23 MWe-h. A CPG-F facility, designed for varying durations of energy storage, has a 70% higher capital cost than a CPG power plant, but costs 4% to 27% more than most CPG-F facilities, designed for a specific duration, while producing 90% to 310% more power than a CPG power plant. A CPG-F facility, designed to switch from providing 100% dispatchable power to 100% energy storage, only costs 3% more than a CPG-F facility, designed only for energy storage.

Ezekiel, J., B.M. Adams, M.O. Saar, and A. Ebigbo, Numerical analysis and optimization of the performance of CO2-Plume Geothermal (CPG) production wells and implications for electric power generation, Geothermics, 98/102270, 2022. [Download] [View Abstract]CO2-Plume Geothermal (CPG) power plants can produce heat and/or electric power. One of the most important parameters for the design of a CPG system is the CO2 mass flowrate. Firstly, the flowrate determines the power generated. Secondly, the flowrate has a significant effect on the fluid pressure drawdown in the geologic reservoir at the production well inlet. This pressure drawdown is important because it can lead to water flow in the reservoir towards and into the borehole. Thirdly, the CO2 flowrate directly affects the two-phase (CO2 and water) flow regime within the production well. An annular flow regime, dominated by the flow of the CO2 phase in the well, is favorable to increase CPG efficiency. Thus, flowrate optimizations of CPG systems need to honor all of the above processes. We investigate the effects of various operational parameters (maximum flowrate, ad- missible reservoir-pressure drawdown, borehole diameter) and reservoir parameters (permeability anisotropy and relative permeability curves) on the CO2 and water flow regime in the production well and on the power generation of a CPG system. We use a numerical modeling approach that couples the reservoir processes with the well and power plant systems. Our results show that water accumulation in the CPG vertical production well can occur. However, with proper CPG system design, it is possible to prevent such water accumulation in the pro- duction well and to maximize CPG electric power output.

Ma, X., M. Hertrich, et. al, F. Amann, V. Gischig, T. Driesner, S. Löw, H. Maurer, M.O. Saar, S. Wiemer, and D. Giardini, Multi-disciplinary characterizations of the Bedretto Lab - a unique underground geoscience research facility, Solid Earth, 2021. [Download] [View Abstract]Xiaodong Ma1, Marian Hertrich1, Kai Bröker1, Nima Gholizadeh Doonechaly1, Rebecca Hochreutener1, Philipp Kästli1, Hannes Krietsch3, Michèle Marti1, Barbara Nägeli1, Morteza Nejati1, Anne Obermann21, Katrin Plenkers1, Alexis Shakas1, Linus Villiger1, Quinn Wenning1, Alba Zappone1, Falko Bethmann2, Raymi Castilla2, Francisco Seberto2, Peter Meier2, Florian Amann3, Valentin Gischig4, Thomas Driesner1, Simon Löw1, Hansruedi Maurer1, Martin O. Saar1, Stefan Wiemer1, Domenico Giardini1 1Department of Earth Sciences, ETH Zürich, Zürich, 8092, Switzerland 2 Swiss Seismological Service, ETH Zurich, Zürich, 8092, Switzerland 2Geo-Energie Suisse, AG, Zürich, 8004, Switzerland 3Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology, RWTH Aachen, Aachen, 52062, Germany 4CSD Ingenieure AG, Liebefeld, 3097, Switzerland Correspondence to: Xiaodong Ma (

Mindel, J.E., P. Alt-Eppig, A.A. Les Landes, S. Beernink, D.T. Birdsell, M. Bloemendal, V. Hamm, et al , M.O. Saar, D. Van den Heuvel, and T. Driesner, Benchmark study of simulators for thermo-hydraulic modelling of low enthalpy geothermal processes, Geothermics, 96/102130, 2021. [Download] [View Abstract]In order to assess the thermo-hydraulic modelling capabilities of various geothermal simulators, a comparative test suite was created, consisting of a set of cases designed with conditions relevant to the low-enthalpy range of geothermal operations within the European HEATSTORE research project. In an effort to increase confidence in the usage of each simulator, the suite was used as a benchmark by a set of 10 simulators of diverse origin, formulation, and licensing characteristics: COMSOL, MARTHE, ComPASS, Nexus-CSMP++, MOOSE, SEAWATv4, CODE_BRIGHT, Tough3, PFLOTRAN, and Eclipse 100. The synthetic test cases (TCs) consist of a transient pressure test verification (TC1), a well-test comparison (TC2), a thermal transport experiment validation (TC3), and a convection onset comparison (TC4), chosen to represent well-defined subsets of the coupled physical processes acting in subsurface geothermal operations. The results from the four test cases were compared among the participants, to known analytical solutions, and to experimental measurements where applicable, to establish them as reference expectations for future studies. A basic description, problem specification, and corresponding results are presented and discussed. Most participating simulators were able to perform most tests reliably at a level of accuracy that is considered sufficient for application to modelling tasks in real geothermal projects. Significant relative deviations from the reference solutions occurred where strong, sudden (e.g. initial) gradients affected the accuracy of the numerical discretization, but also due to sub-optimal model setup caused by simulator limitations (e.g. providing an equation of state for water properties).

Ezekiel, J., D. Kumbhat, A. Ebigbo, B.M. Adams, and M.O. Saar, Sensitivity of Reservoir and Operational Parameters on the Energy Extraction Performance of Combined CO2-EGR–CPG Systems, Energies, 14/6122, 2021. [Download] [View Abstract]There is a potential for synergy effects in utilizing CO2 for both enhanced gas recovery (EGR) and geothermal energy extraction (CO2-plume geothermal, CPG) from natural gas reservoirs. In this study, we carried out reservoir simulations using TOUGH2 to evaluate the sensitivity of natural gas recovery, pressure buildup, and geothermal power generation performance of the combined CO2-EGR–CPG system to key reservoir and operational parameters. The reservoir parameters included horizontal permeability, permeability anisotropy, reservoir temperature, and pore-size- distribution index; while the operational parameters included wellbore diameter and ambient surface temperature. Using an example of a natural gas reservoir model, we also investigated the effects of different strategies of transitioning from the CO2-EGR stage to the CPG stage on the energy-recovery performance metrics and on the two-phase fluid-flow regime in the production well. The simulation results showed that overlapping the CO2-EGR and CPG stages, and having a relatively brief period of CO2 injection, but no production (which we called the CO2-plume establishment stage) achieved the best overall energy (natural gas and geothermal) recovery performance. Permeability anisotropy and reservoir temperature were the parameters that the natural gas recovery performance of the combined system was most sensitive to. The geothermal power generation performance was most sensitive to the reservoir temperature and the production wellbore diameter. The results of this study pave the way for future CPG-based geothermal power-generation optimization studies. For a CO2-EGR–CPG project, the results can be a guide in terms of the required accuracy of the reservoir parameters during exploration and data acquisition.

Ezzat, M., D. Vogler, M. O. Saar, and B. M. Adams, Simulating Plasma Formation in Pores under Short Electric Pulses for Plasma Pulse Geo Drilling (PPGD), Energies, 14/16, 2021. [Download] [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.

Birdsell, D. T., B. M. Adams, and M. O. Saar, Minimum Transmissivity and Optimal Well Spacing and Flow Rate for High-Temperature Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage, Applied Energy, 289/116658, pp. 1-14, 2021. [Download] [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.

Samrock, F., A.V. Grayver, O. Bachmann, Ö. Karakas, and M.O. Saar, Integrated magnetotelluric and petrological analysis of felsic magma reservoirs: Insights from Ethiopian rift volcanoes , Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 559/116765, 2021. [Download] [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.

Lima, M., H. Javanmard, D. Vogler, M.O. Saar, and X.-Z. Kong, Flow-through Drying during CO2 Injection into Brine-filled Natural Fractures: A Tale of Effective Normal Stress, International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control, 109, pp. 103378, 2021. [Download] [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.

Ma, J., M. Ahkami, M.O. Saar, and X.-Z. Kong, Quantification of mineral accessible surface area and flow-dependent fluid-mineral reactivity at the pore scale, Chemical Geology, 563, pp. 120042, 2021. [Download] [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.

Javanmard, H., A. Ebigbo, S.D.C. Walsh, M.O. Saar, and D. Vogler, No-Flow Fraction (NFF) permeability model for rough fractures under normal stress, Water Resources Research, 57/3, 2021. [Download] [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.

Ogland-Hand, J., J. Bielicki, B. Adams, E. Nelson, T. Buscheck, M.O. Saar, and R. Sioshansi, The Value of CO2-Bulk Energy Storage with Wind in Transmission-Constrained Electricity Systems, Energy Conversion and Management, 2021. [Download] [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.

Adams, B.M., D. Vogler, T.H. Kuehn, J.M. Bielicki, N. Garapati, and M.O. Saar, Heat Depletion in Sedimentary Basins and its Effect on the Design and Electric Power Output of CO2 Plume Geothermal (CPG) Systems, Renewable Energy, 172, pp. 1393-1403, 2021. [Download] [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.

Leal, A.M.M., S. Kyas, D. Kulik, and M.O. Saar, Accelerating Reactive Transport Modeling: On‑Demand Machine Learning Algorithm for Chemical Equilibrium Calculations, Transport in Porous Media, 133, pp. 161-204, 2020. [Download] [View Abstract]During reactive transport modeling, the computing cost associated with chemical equilibrium calculations can be 10 to 10,000 times higher than that of fluid flow, heat transfer, and species transport computations. These calculations are performed at least once per mesh cell and once per time step, amounting to billions of them throughout the simulation employing high-resolution meshes. To radically reduce the computing cost of chemical equilibrium calculations (each requiring an iterative solution of a system of nonlinear equa-tions), we consider an on-demand machine learning algorithm that enables quick and accu-rate prediction of new chemical equilibrium states using the results of previously solved chemical equilibrium problems within the same reactive transport simulation. The training operations occur on-demand, rather than before the start of the simulation when it is not clear how many training points are needed to accurately and reliably predict all possible chemical conditions that may occur during the simulation. Each on-demand training opera-tion consists of fully solving the equilibrium problem and storing some key information about the just computed chemical equilibrium state (which is used subsequently to rap-idly predict similar states whenever possible). We study the performance of the on-demand learning algorithm, which is mass conservative by construction, by applying it to a reactive transport modeling example and achieve a speed-up of one or two orders of magnitude (depending on the activity model used). The implementation and numerical tests are car-ried out in Reaktoro (reakt, a unified open-source framework for modeling chemi-cally reactive systems.

Garapati, N., B.M. Adams, M.R. Fleming, T.H. Kuehn, and M.O. Saar, Combining brine or CO2 geothermal preheating with low-temperature waste heat: A higher-efficiency hybrid geothermal power system, Journal of CO2 Utilization, 42, 2020. [Download] [View Abstract]Hybrid geothermal power plants operate by using geothermal fluid to preheat the working fluid of a higher temperature power cycle for electricity generation. This has been shown to yield higher electricity generation than the combination of a stand-alone geothermal power plant and the higher-temperature power cycle. Here, we test both a direct CO2 hybrid geothermal system and an indirect brine hybrid geothermal system. The direct CO2 hybrid geothermal system is a CO2 Plume Geothermal (CPG) system, which uses CO2 as the subsurface working fluid, but with auxiliary heat addition to the geologically produced CO2 at the surface. The indirect brine geothermal system uses the hot geologically produced brine to preheat the secondary working fluid (CO2) within a secondary power cycle. We find that the direct CPG-hybrid system and the indirect brine-hybrid system both can generate 20 % more electric power than the summed power of individual geothermal and auxiliary systems in some cases. Each hybrid system has an optimum turbine inlet temperature which maximizes the electric power generated, and is typically between 100 ◦C and 200 ◦C in the systems examined. The optimum turbine inlet temperature tends to occur where the geothermal heat contribution is between 50 % and 70 % of the total heat addition to the hybrid system. Lastly, the CO2 direct system has lower wellhead temperatures than indirect brine and therefore can utilize lower temperature resources.

Lima, M., P. Schädle, C. Green, D. Vogler, M.O. Saar, and X.-Z. Kong, Permeability Impairment and Salt Precipitation Patterns during CO2 Injection into Single Natural Brine-filled Fractures, Water Resources Research, 56/8, pp. e2020WR027213, 2020. [Download] [View Abstract]Formation dry-out in fracture-dominated geological reservoirs may alter the fracture space, impair rock absolute permeability and cause a significant decrease in well injectivity. In this study, we numerically model the dry-out processes occurring during supercritical CO2 (scCO2) injection into single brine-filled fractures and evaluate the potential for salt precipitation under increasing effective normal stresses in the evaporative regime. We use an open-source, parallel finite-element framework to numerically model two-phase flow through 2-Dimensional fracture planes with aperture fields taken from naturally fractured granite cores at the Grimsel Test Site in Switzerland. Our results reveal a displacement front and a subsequent dry-out front in all simulated scenarios, where higher effective stresses caused more flow channeling, higher rates of water evaporation and larger volumes of salt precipitates. However, despite the larger salt volumes, the permeability impairment was lower at higher effective normal stresses. We conclude that the spatial distribution of the salt, precipitated in fractures with heterogeneous aperture fields, strongly affects the absolute permeability impairment caused by formation dry-out. The numerical simulations assist in understanding the behavior of the injectivity in fractures and fracture networks during subsurface applications that involve scCO2 injection into brine.

Hefny, M., C.-Z. Qin, M.O. Saar, and A. Ebigbo, Synchrotron-based pore-network modeling of two-phase flow in Nubian Sandstone and implications for capillary trapping of carbon dioxide, International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control, 103/1031642, 2020. [Download] [View Abstract]Depleted oil fields in the Gulf of Suez (Egypt) can serve as geothermal reservoirs for power production using a CO2-Plume Geothermal (CPG) system, while geologically sequestering CO2. This entails the injection of a substantial amount of CO2 into the highly permeable brine-saturated Nubian Sandstone. Numerical models of two-phase flow processes are indispensable for predicting the CO2-plume migration at a representative geological scale. Such models require reliable constitutive relationships, including relative permeability and capillary pressure curves. In this study, quasi-static pore-network modeling has been used to simulate the equilibrium positions of fluid-fluid interfaces, and thus determine the capillary pressure and relative permeability curves. Three-dimensional images with a voxel size of 0.65 μm3 of a Nubian Sandstone rock sample have been obtained using Synchrotron Radiation X-ray Tomographic Microscopy. From the images, topological properties of pores/throats were constructed. Using a pore-network model, we performed a sequential primary drainage–main imbibition cycle of quasi-static invasion in order to quantify (1) the CO2 and brine relative permeability curves, (2) the effect of initial wetting-phase saturation (i.e. the saturation at the point of reversal from drainage to imbibition) on the residual–trapping potential, and (3) study the relative permeability–saturation hysteresis. The results illustrate the sensitivity of the pore-scale fluid-displacement and trapping processes on some key parameters (i.e. advancing contact angle, pore-body-to-throat aspect ratio, and initial wetting-phase saturation) and improve our understanding of the potential magnitude of capillary trapping in Nubian Sandstone.

Gischig, V.S., D. Giardini, F. Amann, "et al.", Keith F. Evans, "et al.", A. Kittilä, X. Ma, "et al.", M.O. Saar, and "et al.", Hydraulic stimulation and fluid circulation experiments in underground laboratories: Stepping up the scale towards engineered geothermal systems, Geomechanics for Energy and the Environment, 100175, 2020. [Download] [View Abstract]The history of reservoir stimulation to extract geothermal energy from low permeability rock (i.e. so-called petrothermal or engineered geothermal systems, EGS) highlights the difficulty of creating fluid pathways between boreholes, while keeping induced seismicity at an acceptable level. The worldwide research community sees great value in addressing many of the unresolved problems in down-scaled in-situ hydraulic stimulation experiments. Here, we present the rationale, concepts and initial results of stimulation experiments in two underground laboratories in the crystalline rocks of the Swiss Alps. A first experiment series at the 10 m scale was completed in 2017 at the Grimsel Test Site, GTS. Observations of permeability enhancement and induced seismicity show great variability between stimulation experiments in a small rock mass body. Monitoring data give detailed insights into the complexity of fault stimulation induced by highly heterogeneous pressure propagation, the formation of new fractures and stress redistribution. Future experiments at the Bedretto Underground Laboratory for Geoenergies, BULG, are planned to be at the 100 m scale, closer to conditions of actual EGS projects, and a step closer towards combining fundamental process-oriented research with testing techniques proposed by industry partners. Thus, effective and safe hydraulic stimulation approaches can be developed and tested, which should ultimately lead to an improved acceptance of EGS.

Vogler, D., S.D.C. Walsh, and M.O. Saar, A Numerical Investigation into Key Factors Controlling Hard Rock Excavation via Electropulse Stimulation, Journal of Rock Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, 12/4, pp. 793-801, 2020. [Download] [View Abstract]Electropulse stimulation provides an energy-efficient means of excavating hard rocks through repeated application of high voltage pulses to the rock surface. As such, it has the potential to confer significant advantages to mining and drilling operations for mineral and energy resources. Nevertheless, before these benefits can be realized, a better understanding of these processes is required to improve their deployment in the field. In this paper, we employ a recently developed model of the grain-scale processes involved in electropulse stimulation to examine excavation of hard rock under realistic operating conditions. To that end, we investigate the maximum applied voltage within ranges of 120~kV to 600~kV, to observe the onset of rock fragmentation. We further study the effect of grain size on rock breakage, by comparing fine and coarse grained rocks modeled after granodiorite and granite, respectively. Lastly, the pore fluid salinity is investigated, since the electric conductivity of the pore fluid is shown to be a governing factor for the electrical conductivity of the system. This study demonstrates that all investigated factors are crucial to the efficiency of rock fragmentation by electropulsing.

Ma, X., M.O. Saar, and L.-S. Fan, Coulomb Criterion - Bounding Crustal Stress Limit and Intact Rock Failure: Perspectives, Powder Technology, 374, pp. 106-110, 2020. [Download] [View Abstract]In this perspective article, we illustrate the importance and versatility of the Coulomb criterion that serves as a bridge between the fields of powder technology and rock mechanics/geomechanics. We first describe the essence of the Coulomb criterion and its physical meaning, revealing surprising similarities regarding its applica- tions between both fields. We then discuss the rock mechanics applications and limitations at two extreme scales, the Earth's crust (tens of kilometers) and intact rocks (meters). We finally offer thoughts on bridging these scales. The context of the article is essential not only to the rock mechanics/geomechanics community but also to a broader powder technology community.

Vogler, D., S.D.C. Walsh, Ph. Rudolf von Rohr, and M.O. Saar, Simulation of rock failure modes in thermal spallation drilling, Acta Geotechnica, 15/8, pp. 2327-2340, 2020. [Download] [View Abstract]Thermal spallation drilling is a contact-less means of borehole excavation that works by exposing a rock surface to a high-temperature jet flame. In this study, we investigate crucial factors for the success of such thermal drilling operations using numerical simulations of the thermomechanical processes leading to rock failure at the borehole surface. To that end, we integrate a model developed for spalling failure with our thermomechanical simulations. In particular, we consider the role of material heterogeneities, maximum jet-flame temperature and maximum jet-flame temperature rise time on the onset of inelastic deformation and subsequent damage. We further investigate differences in energy consumption for the studied system configurations. The simulations highlight the importance of material composition, as thermal spallation is favored in fine-grained material with strong material heterogeneity. The model is used to test the relationship between the jet-flame temperature and the onset of thermal spallation.

von Planta, C., D. Vogler, P. Zulian, M.O. Saar, and R. Krause, Contact between rough rock surfaces using a dual mortar method, International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences (IJRMMS), 133, pp. 104414, 2020. [Download] [View Abstract]The mechanical behavior of fractures in rocks has strong implications for reser- voir engineering applications. Deformations, and the corresponding change in contact area and aperture field, impact rock fracture stiffness and permeability, thus altering the reservoir properties significantly. Simulating contact between fractures is numerically difficult as the non-penetration constraints lead to a nonlinear problem and the surface meshes of the solid bodies on the opposing fracture sides may be non-matching. Furthermore, due to the complex geome- try, the non-penetration constraints must be updated throughout the solution procedure. Here we present a novel implementation of a dual mortar method for contact. It uses a non-smooth sequential quadratic programming method as solver, and is suitable for parallel computing. We apply it to a two body con- tact problem consisting of realistic rock fracture geometries from the Grimsel underground laboratory in Switzerland. The contributions of this article are: 1) a novel, parallel implementation of a dual mortar and non-smooth sequential quadratic programming method, 2) realistic rock geometries with rough sur- faces, and 3) numerical examples, which prove that the dual mortar method is capable of replicating the nonlinear closure behavior of fractures observed in laboratory experiments.

Ma, J., L. Querci, B. Hattendorf, M.O. Saar, and X.-Z. Kong, The effect of mineral dissolution on the effective stress law for permeability in a tight sandstone, Geophysical Research Letters, 2020. [Download] [View Abstract]We present flow-through experiments to delineate the processes involved in permeability changes driven by effective stress variations and mineral cement dissolution in porous rocks. CO2-enriched brine is injected continuously into a tight sandstone under in-situ reservoir conditions for 455 hours. Due to the dolomite cement dissolution, the bulk permeability of the sandstone specimen significantly increases, and two dissolution passages are identified near the fluid inlet by X-ray CT imaging. Pre- and post-reaction examinations of the effective stress law for permeability suggest that after reaction the bulk permeability is more sensitive to pore pressure changes and less sensitive to effective stress changes. These observations are corroborated by Scanning Electron Microscopy and X-ray CT observations. This study deepens our understanding of the effect of mineral dissolution on the effective stress law for permeability, with implications for characterizing subsurface mass and energy transport, particularly during fluid injection/production into/from geologic reservoirs.

Fleming, M.R., B.M. Adams, T.H. Kuehn, J.M. Bielicki, and M.O. Saar, Increased Power Generation due to Exothermic Water Exsolution in CO2 Plume Geothermal (CPG) Power Plants, Geothermics, 88/101865, 2020. [Download] [View Abstract]A direct CO2-Plume Geothermal (CPG) system is a novel technology that uses captured and geologically stored CO2 as the subsurface working uid in sedimentary basin reservoirs to extract geothermal energy. In such a CPG system, the CO2 that enters the production well is likely saturated with H2O from the geothermal reser- voir. However, direct CPG models thus far have only considered energy production via pure (i.e. dry) CO2 in the production well and its direct conversion in power generation equipment. Therefore, we analyze here, how the wellhead uid pressure, temperature, liquid water fraction, and the resultant CPG turbine power output are impacted by the production of CO2 saturated with H2O for reservoir depths ranging from 2.5 km to 5.0 km and geothermal temperature gradients between 20 °C/km and 50 °C/km. We demonstrate that the H2O in solution is exothermically exsolved in the vertical well, increasing the uid temperature relative to dry CO2, resulting in the production of liquid H2O at the wellhead. The increased wellhead uid temperature increases the turbine power output on average by 15% to 25% and up to a maximum of 41%, when the water enthalpy of exsolution is considered and the water is (conservatively) removed before the turbine, which decreases the uid mass ow rate through the turbine and thus power output. We show that the enthalpy of exsolution and the CO2-H2O so- lution density are fundamental components in the calculation of CPG power generation and thus should not be neglected or substituted with the properties of dry CO2.

Tutolo, B., A. Luhmann, X.-Z. Kong, B. Bagley, D. Alba-Venero, N. Mitchell, M.O. Saar, and W.E. Seyfried, Contributions of visible and invisible pores to reactive transport in dolomite, Geochemical Perspectives Letters, I4, pp. 42-46, 2020. [Download] [View Abstract]Recent technical advances have demonstrated the importance of pore-scale geochemical processes for governing Earth's evolution. However, the contribution of pores at different scales to overall geochemical reactions remains poorly understood. Here, we integrate multiscale characterization and reactive transport modeling to study the contribution of pore-scale geochemical proceses to the hydrogeochemical evolution of dolomite rock samples during CO2-driven dissolution experiments. Our results demonstrate that approximately half of the total pore volume is invisible at the scale of commonly used imaging techniques. Comparison of pre- and post-experiment analyses demonstrate that porosity-increasing, CO2-driven dissolution processes preferentially occur in pores 600 nm – 5 μm in size, but pores <600 nm in size show no change during experimental alteration. This latter observation, combined with the anomalously high rates of trace element release during the experiments, suggests that nanoscale pores are accessible to through-flowing fluids. A three-dimensional simulation performed directly on one of the samples shows that steady-state pore-scale trace element reaction rates must be ~10× faster than that of dolomite in order to match measured effluent concentrations, consistent with the large surface area-to-volume ratio in these pores. Together, these results yield a new conceptual model of pore-scale processes, and urge caution when interpreting the trace element concentrations of ancient carbonate rocks.

Kittilä, A., M.R. Jalali, M.O. Saar, and X.-Z. Kong, Solute tracer test quantification of the effects of hot water injection into hydraulically stimulated crystalline rock, Geothermal Energy, 8/17, 2020. [Download] [View Abstract]When water is injected into a fracture-dominated reservoir that is cooler or hotter than the injected water, the reservoir permeability is expected to be altered by the injection-induced thermo-mechanical effects, resulting in the redistribution of fluid flow in the reservoir. These effects are important to be taken into account when evaluating the performance and lifetime particularly of Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS). In this paper, we compare the results from two dye tracer tests, conducted before (at ambient temperature of 13 °C) and during the injection of 45 °C hot water into a fractured crystalline rock at the Grimsel Test Site in Switzerland. Conducting a moment analysis on the recovered tracer residence time distribution (RTD) curves, we observe, after hot water injection, a significant decrease in the total tracer recovery. This recovery decrease strongly suggests that fluid flow was redistributed in the studied rock volume and that the majority of the injected water was lost to the far-field. Furthermore, by using temperature measurements, obtained from the same locations as the tracer RTD curves, we conceptualize an approach to estimate the fracture surface area contributing to the heat exchange between the host rock and the circulating fluid. Our moment analysis and simplified estimation of fracture surface area provide insights into the hydraulic properties of the hydraulically active fracture system and the changes in fluid flow. Such insights are important to assess the heat exchange performance of a geothermal formation during fluid circulation and to estimate the lifetime of the geothermal formation, particularly in EGS.

Ezekiel, J., A. Ebigbo, B. M. Adams, and M. O. Saar, Combining natural gas recovery and CO2-based geothermal energy extraction for electric power generation, Applied Energy, 269/115012, 2020. [Download] [View Abstract]We investigate the potential for extracting heat from produced natural gas and utilizing supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) as a working uid for the dual purpose of enhancing gas recovery (EGR) and extracting geo- thermal energy (CO2-Plume Geothermal – CPG) from deep natural gas reservoirs for electric power generation, while ultimately storing all of the subsurface-injected CO2. Thus, the approach constitutes a CO2 capture double- utilization and storage (CCUUS) system. The synergies achieved by the above combinations include shared infrastructure and subsurface working uid. We integrate the reservoir processes with the wellbore and surface power-generation systems such that the combined system’s power output can be optimized. Using the subsurface uid ow and heat transport simulation code TOUGH2, coupled to a wellbore heat-transfer model, we set up an anticlinal natural gas reservoir model and assess the technical feasibility of the proposed system. The simulations show that the injection of CO2 for natural gas recovery and for the establishment of a CO2 plume (necessary for CPG) can be conveniently combined. During the CPG stage, following EGR, a CO2-circulation mass owrate of 110 kg/s results in a maximum net power output of 2 MWe for this initial, conceptual, small system, which is scalable. After a decade, the net power decreases when thermal breakthrough occurs at the production wells. The results con rm that the combined system can improve the gas eld’s overall energy production, enable CO2 sequestration, and extend the useful lifetime of the gas eld. Hence, deep (partially depleted) natural gas re- servoirs appear to constitute ideal sites for the deployment of not only geologic CO2 storage but also CPG.

Rossi, E. , M.O. Saar, and Ph. Rudolf von Rohr, The influence of thermal treatment on rock-bit interaction: a study of a combined thermo-mechanical drilling (CTMD) concept, Geothermal Energy, 8/16, 2020. [Download] [View Abstract]To improve the economics and viability of accessing deep georesources, we propose a combined thermo–mechanical drilling (CTMD) method, employing a heat source to facilitate the mechanical removal of rock, with the aim of increasing drilling performance and thereby reducing the overall costs, especially for deep wells in hard rocks. In this work, we employ a novel experiment setup to investigate the main parameters of interest during the interaction of a cutter with the rock material, and we test untreated and thermally treated sandstone and granite, to understand the underlying rock removal mechanism and the resulting drilling performance improvements achievable with the new approach. We find that the rock removal process can be divided into three main regimes: first, a wear-dominated regime, followed by a compression-based progression of the tool at large penetrations, and a final tool fall-back regime for increasing scratch distances. We calculate the compressive rock strengths from our tests to validate the above regime hypothesis, and they are in good agreement with literature data, explaining the strength reduction after treatment of the material by extensive induced thermal cracking of the rock. We evaluate the new method’s drilling performance and confirm that thermal cracks in the rock can considerably enhance subsequent mechanical rock removal rates and related drilling performance by one order of magnitude in granite, while mainly reducing the wear rates of the cutting tools in sandstone.

Rossi, E., S. Jamali, V. Wittig, M.O. Saar, and Ph. Rudolf von Rohr, A combined thermo-mechanical drilling technology for deep geothermal and hard rock reservoirs, Geothermics, 85/101771, 2020. [Download] [View Abstract]Combined thermo-mechanical drilling is a novel technology to enhance drilling performance in deep hard rock formations. In this work, we demonstrate this technology in the field by implementing the concept on a full-scale drilling rig, and we show its feasibility under realistic process conditions. We provide evidence that the novel drilling method can increase the removal performance in hard rocks by up to a factor of three, compared to conventional drilling methods. From the findings of this work, we conclude that integration of thermal assistance to conventional rotary drilling constitutes an interesting approach to facilitate the drilling process, and therefore increase the access viability to deep georesources in hard rocks.

Rossi, E., S. Jamali, M.O. Saar, and Ph. Rudolf von Rohr, Field test of a Combined Thermo-Mechanical Drilling technology. Mode I: Thermal spallation drilling, Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering, 190/107005, 2020. [Download] [View Abstract]Accessing hydrocarbons, geothermal energy and mineral resources requires more and more drilling to great depths and into hard rocks, as many shallow resources in soft rocks have been mined already. Drilling into hard rock to great depths, however, requires reducing the effort (i.e., energy), time (i.e., increasing the rate of penetration) and cost associated with such operations. Thus, a Combined Thermo-Mechanical Drilling (CTMD) technology is proposed, which employs a heat source (e.g., a flame jet) and includes two main drilling modes: (I) Thermal spallation drilling, investigated here as a field test and (II) Flame-assisted rotary drilling, investigated as a field test in the companion paper. The CTMD technology is expected to reduce drilling costs, especially in hard rocks, by enhancing the rock penetration rate and increasing the bit lifetime. Mode I of the CTMD technology (thermal spallation drilling) is investigated here by implementing the concept on a full-scale drilling rig to investigate its feasibility and performance under realistic field conditions. During the test, the successful thermal spallation process is monitored, employing a novel acoustic emission system. The effects of thermal spallation in the granite rock are analyzed to provide conclusions regarding the rock removal performance and the application potential of the technology. The field test shows that thermal spallation of the granitic rock can be successfully achieved even when a liquid (water) is used as the drilling fluid, as long as the heat source is appropriately shielded by compressed-air jets. Thermal damage of the surrounding rock is investigated after the spallation test, employing micro-computer tomography imaging and modeling the stability of the cracks, generated by the spallation field test. This study shows that thermally induced damage is mainly confined within a narrow region close to the rock surface, suggesting that thermal spallation only marginally affects the overall mechanical stability of the borehole. Thus, this confirms that, as part of the Combined Thermo- Mechanical Drilling (CTMD) technology, thermal spallation drilling is a promising mode that has a high potential of facilitating the drilling of deep boreholes in hard rocks.

Rossi, E., S. Jamali, D. Schwarz, M.O. Saar, and Ph. Rudolf von Rohr, Field test of a Combined Thermo-Mechanical Drilling technology. Mode II: Flame-assisted rotary drilling, Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering, 190/106880, 2020. [Download] [View Abstract]To enhance the drilling performance in deep hard rocks and reduce overall drilling efforts, this work proposes a Combined Thermo-Mechanical Drilling (CTMD) technology. This technology employs a heat source (e.g., a flame jet) and includes two main drilling modes: (I) thermal spallation drilling, investigated in the companion paper and (II) flame-assisted rotary drilling, investigated here as a field test. The CTMD technology is expected to reduce drilling efforts, especially in hard rocks, enhancing the rock penetration rate and increasing the bit lifetime, all of which reduces the drilling costs. The present work investigates Mode II (flame-assisted rotary drilling) of the CTMD technology by implementing the concept in an existing drilling rig and testing the technology under relevant process conditions. This contribution studies the underlying rock removal mechanism of CTMD and demonstrates its drilling performance, compared to conventional rotary drilling methods. Acoustic emission monitoring, and analysis of the collected drill cuttings provide multiple evidences for thermal-cracking-enhanced rock removal during the flame-assisted rotary drilling. This removal mechanism appears to represent an optimal compromise to minimize rock fragmentation and cutting transport efforts during drilling, compared to a less efficient mechanical scraping of the hard granite rock, observed during the standalone-mechanical drill test. The drilling performance, in terms of removal and wear rates, are evaluated for the flame-assisted rotary drilling. This shows that the proposed drilling approach is capable of enhancing the removal process in hard granite rock, by a factor of 2.5, compared to standalone-mechanical drilling. The implementation of this drilling approach into a conventional drilling system shows that integration of thermal assistance to conventional rotary drilling requires marginal technical efforts. Additionally, this technology can profit from established knowledge in conventional mechanical drilling, facilitating its implementation to improve drilling performance in hard rocks. Hence, this study demonstrates that the Combined Thermo- Mechanical Drilling method is feasible and concludes that this technology constitutes a promising approach to improve the drilling process, thereby increasing the viability of accessing deep geo-resources in hard rocks.

Kittilä, A., M.R. Jalali, M. Somogyvári, K.F. Evans, M.O. Saar, and X.-Z. Kong, Characterization of the effects of hydraulic stimulation with tracer-based temporal moment analysis and tomographic inversion, Geothermics, 86/101820, 2020. [Download] [View Abstract]Tracer tests were conducted as part of decameter-scale in-situ hydraulic stimulation experiments at the Grimsel Test Site to investigate the hydraulic properties of a stimulated crystalline rock volume and to study the stimulation-induced hydrodynamic changes. Temporal moment analysis yielded an increase in tracer swept pore volume with prominent flow channeling. Post-stimulation tomographic inversion of the hydraulic conductivity, K, distribution indicated an increase in the geometric mean of logK and a decrease in the Dykstra-Parsons heterogeneity index. These results indicate that new flow path connections were created by the stimulation programs, enabling the tracers to sweep larger volumes, while accessing flow paths with larger hydraulic conductivities.

Nejati, M., A. Aminzadeh, T. Driesner, and M.O. Saar, On the directional dependency of Mode I fracture toughness in anisotropic rocks, Theoretical and Applied Fracture Mechanics, 107/102494, 2020. [Download] [View Abstract]This paper presents a theoretical and experimental analysis of the directional variations of different measures of Mode fracture toughness in anisotropic rocks and possibly other types of solids. We report the theoretical basis for the directional dependence of three measures of fracture toughness: the critical stress intensity factor, the critical energy release rate and the critical strain energy density. The equivalency of these three measures in anisotropic materials is discussed. We then provide a full set of experimental results on the fracture toughness variation in an anisotropic rock that exhibits transverse isotropy. The results give supporting evidence that the critical Mode stress intensity factor in fact varies with direction based on a sinusoidal function. This indicates that there exist two principal values of the fracture toughness along with the principal material directions within the plane. Once these two principal values are determined, all three measures of the fracture toughness can be predicted in any direction, provided that the elastic constants of the material are known, and that the symmetry condition employed in this analysis is fulfilled.

von Planta, C., D. Vogler, X. Chen, M.G.C. Nestola, M.O. Saar, and R. Krause, Modelling of hydro-mechanical processes in heterogeneous fracture intersections using a fictitious domain method with variational transfer operators, Computational Geosciences, 2020. [Download] [View Abstract]Fluid flow in rough fractures and the coupling with the mechanical behavior of the fractures pose great difficulties for numerical modeling approaches, due to complex fracture surface topographies, the non-linearity of hydromechanical processes and their tightly coupled nature. To this end, we have adapted a fictitious domain method to enable the simulation of hydromechanical processes in fracture-intersections. The main characteristic of the method is the immersion of the fracture domain, modelled as a linear elastic solid, in the surrounding fluid, modelled with the incompressible Navier Stokes equations. The fluid and the solid problems are coupled with variational transfer operators. Variational transfer operators are also used to solve contact within the fracture using a mortar approach and to generate problem specific fluid grids. With respect to our applications, the key features of the method are the usage of different finite element discretizations for the solid and the fluid problem and the automatically generated representation of the fluid-solid boundary. We demonstrate that the presented methodology resolves small-scale roughness on the fracture surface, while capturing fluid flow field changes during mechanical loading. Starting with 2D/3D benchmark simulations of intersected fractures, we end with an intersected fracture composed of complex fracture surface topographies, which are in contact under increasing loads. The contributions of this article are: (1) the application of the fictitious domain method to study flow in fractures with intersections, (2) a mortar based contact solver for the solid problem, (3) generation of problem specific grids using the geometry information from the variational transfer operators.

Ahkami, M., A. Parmigiani, P.R. Di Palma, M.O. Saar, and X.-Z. Kong, A lattice-Boltzmann study of permeability-porosity relationships and mineral precipitation patterns in fractured porous media, Computational Geosciences, 2020. [Download] [View Abstract]Mineral precipitation can drastically alter a reservoir’s ability to transmit mass and energy during various engineering/natural subsurface processes, such as geothermal energy extraction and geological carbon dioxide sequestration. However, it is still challenging to explain the relationships among permeability, porosity, and precipitation patterns in reservoirs, particularly in fracture-dominated reservoirs. Here, we investigate the pore-scale behavior of single-species mineral precipitation reactions in a fractured porous medium, using a phase field lattice-Boltzmann method. Parallel to the main flow direction, the medium is divided into two halves, one with a low-permeability matrix and one with a high-permeability matrix. Each matrix contains one flow-through and one dead-end fracture. A wide range of species diffusivity and reaction rates is explored to cover regimes from advection- to diffusion-dominated, and from transport- to reaction-limited. By employing the ratio of the Damköhler (Da) and the Peclet (Pe) number, four distinct precipitation patterns can be identified, namely (1) no precipitation (Da/Pe < 1), (2) near-inlet clogging (Da/Pe > 100), (3) fracture isolation (1 < Da/Pe < 100 and Pe > 1), and (4) diffusive precipitation (1 < Da/Pe < 100 and Pe < 0.1). Using moment analyses, we discuss in detail the development of the species (i.e., reactant) concentration and mineral precipitation fields for various species transport regimes. Finally, we establish a general relationship among mineral precipitation pattern, porosity, and permeability. Our study provides insights into the feedback loop of fluid flow, species transport, mineral precipitation, pore space geometry changes, and permeability in fractured porous media.

Nejati, M., M.L.T. Dambly, and M.O. Saar, A methodology to determine the elastic properties of anisotropic rocks from a single uniaxial compression test, Journal of Rock Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, 11/6, pp. 1166-1183, 2019. [Download] [View Abstract]This paper introduces a new methodology to measure the elastic constants of transversely isotropic rocks from a single uniaxial compression test. We first give the mathematical proof that a uniaxial compression test provides only four independent strain equations. As a result, the exact determination of all five independent elastic constants from only one test is not possible. An approximate determination of the Young's moduli and the Poisson's ratios is however practical and efficient when adding the Saint–Venant relation as the fifth equation. Explicit formulae are then developed to calculate both secant and tangent definitions of the five elastic constants from a minimum of four strain measurements. The results of this new methodology applied on three granitic samples demonstrate a significant stress-induced nonlinear behavior, where the tangent moduli increase by a factor of three to four when the rock is loaded up to 20 MPa. The static elastic constants obtained from the uniaxial compression test are also found to be significantly smaller than the dynamic ones obtained from the ultrasonic measurements.

Ahkami, M., T. Roesgen, M.O. Saar, and X.-Z. Kong, High-resolution temporo-ensemble PIV to resolve pore-scale flow in 3D-printed fractured porous media, Transport in Porous Media, 129/2, pp. 467-483, 2019. [Download] [View Abstract]Fractures are conduits that can enable fast advective transfer of (fluid, solute, reactant, particle, etc.) mass and energy. Such fast transfer can significantly affect pore-scale physico-chemical processes, which can in turn affect macroscopic mass and energy transport characteristics. Here, flooding experiments are conducted in a well-characterized fractured porous medium, manufactured by 3D printing. Given steady-state flow conditions, the micro-structure of the two-dimensional (2D) pore fluid flow field is delineated to resolve fluid velocities on the order of a sub-millimeter per second. We demonstrate the capabilities of a new temporo-ensemble Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) method by maximizing its spatial resolution, employing in-line illumination. This method is advantageous as it is capable of minimizing the number of pixels, required for velocity determinations, down to one pixel, thereby enabling resolving high spatial resolutions of velocity vectors in a large field of view (FOV). While the main goal of this study is to introduce a novel experimental and velocimetry framework, this new method is then applied to specifically improve the understanding of fluid flow through fractured porous media. Histograms of measured velocities indicate log-normal and Gaussian-type distributions of longitudinal and lateral velocities in fractures, respectively. The magnitudes of fluid velocities in fractures and the flow interactions between fractures and matrices are shown to be influenced by the permeability of the background matrix and the orientation of the fractures.

von Planta, C., D. Vogler, X. Chen, M.G.C. Nestola, M.O. Saar, and R. Krause, Simulation of hydro-mechanically coupled processes in rough rock fractures using an immersed boundary method and variational transfer operators, Computational Geosciences, 23/5, pp. 1125-1140, 2019. [Download] [View Abstract]Hydro-mechanical processes in rough fractures are highly non-linear and govern productivity and associated risks in a wide range of reservoir engineering problems. To enable high-resolution simulations of hydro-mechanical processes in fractures, we present an adaptation of an immersed boundary method to compute fluid flow between rough fracture surfaces. The solid domain is immersed into the fluid domain and both domains are coupled by means of variational volumetric transfer operators. The transfer operators implicitly resolve the boundary between the solid and the fluid, which simplifies the setup of fracture simulations with complex surfaces. It is possible to choose different formulations and discretization schemes for each subproblem and it is not necessary to remesh the fluid grid. We use benchmark problems and real fracture geometries to demonstrate the following capabilities of the presented approach: (1) resolving the boundary of the rough fracture surface in the fluid; (2) capturing fluid flow field changes in a fracture which closes under increasing normal load; and (3) simulating the opening of a fracture due to increased fluid pressure.

Ma, J., L. Querci, B. Hattendorf, M.O. Saar, and X.-Z. Kong, Toward a Spatiotemporal Understanding of Dolomite Dissolution in Sandstone by CO2‑Enriched Brine Circulation, Environmental Science & Technology, 2019. [Download] [View Abstract]In this study, we introduce a stochastic method to delineate the mineral effective surface area (ESA) evolution during a re-cycling reactive flow-through transport experiment on a sandstone under geologic reservoir conditions, with a focus on the dissolution of its dolomite cement, Ca$_{1.05}$Mg$_{0.75}$Fe$_{0.2}$(CO$_3$)$_2$. CO$_2$-enriched brine was circulated through this sandstone specimen for 137 cycles ($\sim$270 hours) to examine the evolution of in-situ hydraulic properties and CO$_2$-enriched brine-dolomite geochemical reactions. The bulk permeability of the sandstone specimen decreased from 356 mD before the reaction to 139 mD after the reaction, while porosity increased from 21.9\% to 23.2\% due to a solid volume loss of 0.25 ml. Chemical analyses on experimental effluents during the first cycle yielded a dolomite reactivity of $\sim$2.45 mmol~m$^{-3}$~s$^{-1}$, a corresponding sample-averaged ESA of $\sim$8.86$\times 10^{-4}$~m$^2$/g, and an ESA coefficient of 1.36$\times 10^{-2}$, indicating limited participation of the physically exposed mineral surface area. As the dissolution reaction progressed, the ESA is observed to first increase, then decrease. This change in ESA can be qualitatively reproduced employing SEM-image-based stochastic analyses on dolomite dissolution. These results provide a new approach to analyze and upscale the ESA during geochemical reactions, which are involved in a wide range of geo-engineering operations.

Lima, M.M., D. Vogler, L. Querci, C. Madonna, B. Hattendorf, M.O. Saar, and X.-Z. Kong, Thermally driven fracture aperture variation in naturally fractured granites, Geothermal Energy Journal, 7/1, pp. 1-23, 2019. [Download] [View Abstract]Temperature variations often trigger coupled thermal, hydrological, mechanical, and chemical (THMC) processes that can significantly alter the permeability/impedance of fracture-dominated deep geological reservoirs. It is thus necessary to quantitatively explore the associated phenomena during fracture opening and closure as a result of temperature change. In this work, we report near-field experimental results of the effect of temperature on the hydraulic properties of natural fractures under stressed conditions (effective normal stresses of 5-25 MPa). Two specimens of naturally fractured granodiorite cores from the Grimsel Test Site in Switzerland were subjected to flow-through experiments with a temperature variation of 25-140 °C to characterize the evolution of fracture aperture/permeability. The fracture surfaces of the studied specimens were morphologically characterized using photogrammetry scanning. Periodic measurements of the efflux of dissolved minerals yield the net removal mass, which is correlated to the observed rates of fracture closure. Changes measured in hydraulic aperture are significant, exhibiting reductions of 20-75 % over the heating/cooling cycles. Under higher confining stresses, the effects in fracture permeability are irreversible and notably time-dependent. Thermally driven fracture aperture variation was more pronounced in the specimen with the largest mean aperture width and spatial correlation length. Gradual fracture compaction is likely controlled by thermal dilation, mechanical grinding, and pressure dissolution due to increased thermal stresses exerted over the contacting asperities, as confirmed by the analyses of hydraulic properties and efflux mass.

Myre, J.M., I. Lascu, E.A. Lima, J.M. Feinberg, M.O. Saar, and B.P. Weiss, Using TNT-NN to Unlock the Fast Full Spatial Inversion of Large Magnetic Microscopy Datasets, Earth Planets and Space, 71/14, 2019. [Download] [View Abstract]Modern magnetic microscopy (MM) provides high-resolution, ultra-high sensitivity moment magnetometry, with the ability to measure at spatial resolutions better than 10^−4 m and to detect magnetic moments weaker than 10^−15 Am^2 . These characteristics make modern MM devices capable of particularly high resolution analysis of the magnetic properties of materials, but generate extremely large data sets. Many studies utilizing MM attempt to solve an inverse problem to determine the magnitude of the magnetic moments that produce the measured component of the magnetic field. Fast Fourier techniques in the frequency domain and non-negative least-squares (NNLS) methods in the spatial domain are the two most frequently used methods to solve this inverse problem. Although extremely fast, Fourier techniques can produce solutions that violate the non-negativity of moments constraint. Inversions in the spatial domain do not violate non-negativity constraints, but the execution times of standard NNLS solvers (the Lawson and Hanson method and Matlab’s lsqlin) prohibit spatial domain inversions from operating at the full spatial resolution of an MM. In this paper we present the applicability of the TNT-NN algorithm, a newly developed NNLS active set method, as a means to directly address the NNLS routine hindering existing spatial domain inversion methods. The TNT-NN algorithm enhances the performance of spatial domain inversions by accelerating the core NNLS routine. Using a conventional computing system, we show that the TNT-NN algorithm produces solutions with residuals comparable to conventional methods while reducing execution time of spatial domain inversions from months to hours or less. Using isothermal remanent magnetization measurements of multiple synthetic and natural samples, we show that the capabilities of the TNT-NN algorithm allow scans with sizes that made them previously inaccesible to NNLS techniques to be inverted. Ultimately, the TNT- NN algorithm enables spatial domain inversions of MM data on an accelerated timescale that renders spatial domain analyses for modern MM studies practical. In particular, this new technique enables MM experiments that would have required an impractical amount of inversion time such as high-resolution stepwise magnetization and demagnetization and 3-dimensional inversions.

Schädle, P., P. Zulian, D. Vogler, S. Bhopalam R., M.G.C. Nestola, A. Ebigbo, R. Krause, and M.O. Saar, 3D non-conforming mesh model for flow in fractured porous media using Lagrange multipliers, Computers & Geosciences, 132, pp. 42-55, 2019. [Download] [View Abstract]This work presents a modeling approach for single-phase flow in 3D fractured porous media with non-conforming meshes. To this end, a Lagrange multiplier method is combined with a parallel variational transfer approach. This Lagrange multiplier method enables the use of non-conforming meshes and depicts the variable coupling between fracture and matrix domain. The variational transfer allows general, accurate, and parallel projection of variables between non-conforming meshes (i.e. between fracture and matrix domain). Comparisons of simulations with 2D benchmarks show good agreement, and the applied finite element Lagrange multiplier spaces show good performance. The method is further evaluated on 3D fracture networks by comparing it to results from conforming mesh simulations which were used as a reference. Application to realistic fracture networks with hundreds of fractures is demonstrated. Mesh size and mesh convergence are investigated for benchmark cases and 3D fracture network applications. Results demonstrate that the Lagrange multiplier method, in combination with the variational transfer approach, is capable of modeling single-phase flow through realistic 3D fracture networks.

Dambly, M.L.T., M. Nejati, D. Vogler, and M.O. Saar, On the direct measurement of shear moduli in transversely isotropic rocks using the uniaxial compression test, International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences (IJRMMS), 113, pp. 220-240, 2019. [Download] [View Abstract]This paper introduces a methodology for the direct determination of the shear moduli in transversely isotropic rocks, using a single test, where a cylindrical specimen is subjected to uniaxial compression. A method is also developed to determine the orientation of the isotropy plane as well as the dynamic elastic constants using ultrasonic measurements on a single cylindrical specimen. Explicit formulae are developed to calculate the shear moduli from strain gauge measurements at different polar angles. The calculation of shear moduli from these formulae requires no knowledge about Young's moduli or Poisson's ratios and depends only on the orientation of the isotropy plane. Several strain gauge setups are designed to obtain the shear moduli from different numbers and arrangements of strain gauges. We demonstrate, that the shear moduli can be determined accurately and efficiently with only three strain gauge measurements. The orientation of the isotropy plane is measured with different methods, including ultrasonic measurements. The results show, that the isotropy plane of the tested granitic samples slightly deviates from the foliation plane. However, the foliation plane can still determine the orientation of the isotropy plane with a good approximation.

Ogland-Hand, J.D., J.M. Bielicki, Y. Wang, B.M. Adams, T.A. Buscheck, and M.O. Saar, The value of bulk energy storage for reducing CO2 emissions and water requirements from regional electricity systems., Energy Conversion and Management, 181, pp. 674-685, 2019. [Download] [View Abstract]The implementation of bulk energy storage (BES) technologies can help to achieve higher penetration and utilization of variable renewable energy technologies (e.g., wind and solar), but it can also alter the dispatch order in regional electricity systems in other ways. These changes to the dispatch order affect the total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that is emitted to the atmosphere and the amount of total water that is required by the electricity generating facilities. In a case study of the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas system, we separately investigated the value that three BES technologies (CO2- Geothermal Bulk Energy Storage, Compressed Air Energy Storage, Pumped Hydro Energy Storage) could have for reducing system-wide CO2 emissions and water requirements. In addition to increasing the utilization of wind power capacity, the dispatch of BES also led to an increase in the utilization of natural gas power capacity and of coal power capacity, and a decrease in the utilization of nuclear power capacity, depending on the character of the net load, the CO2 price, the water price, and the BES technology. These changes to the dispatch order provided positive value (e.g., increase in natural gas generally reduced CO2 emissions; decrease in nuclear utilization always decreased water requirements) or negative value (e.g., increase in coal generally increased CO2 emissions; increase in natural gas sometimes increased water requirements) to the regional electricity system. We also found that these values to the system can be greater than the cost of operating the BES facility. At present, there are mechanisms to compensate BES facilities for ancillary grid services, and our results suggest that similar mechanisms could be enacted to compensate BES facilities for their contribution to the environmental sustainability of the system.

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]

Kong, X.-Z., C. Deuber, A. Kittilä, M. Somogyvari, G. Mikutis, P. Bayer, W.J. Stark, and M.O. Saar, Tomographic reservoir imaging with DNA-labeled silica nanotracers: The first field validation, Environmental Science &Technology, 52/23, pp. 13681-13689, 2018. [Download] [View Abstract]This study presents the first field validation of using DNA-labeled silica nanoparticles as tracers to image subsurface reservoirs by travel time based tomography. During a field campaign in Switzerland, we performed short-pulse tracer tests under a forced hydraulic head gradient to conduct a multisource−multireceiver tracer test and tomographic inversion, determining the two-dimensional hydraulic conductivity field between two vertical wells. Together with three traditional solute dye tracers, we injected spherical silica nanotracers, encoded with synthetic DNA molecules, which are protected by a silica layer against damage due to chemicals, microorganisms, and enzymes. Temporal moment analyses of the recorded tracer concentration breakthrough curves (BTCs) indicate higher mass recovery, less mean residence time, and smaller dispersion of the DNA-labeled nanotracers, compared to solute dye tracers. Importantly, travel time based tomography, using nanotracer BTCs, yields a satisfactory hydraulic conductivity tomogram, validated by the dye tracer results and previous field investigations. These advantages of DNA-labeled nanotracers, in comparison to traditional solute dye tracers, make them well-suited for tomographic reservoir characterizations in fields such as hydrogeology, petroleum engineering, and geothermal energy, particularly with respect to resolving preferential flow paths or the heterogeneity of contact surfaces or by enabling source zone characterizations of dense nonaqueous phase liquids.

Amann, F., V. Gischig, K.F. Evans, et al., A. Kittilä, S. Wiemer, M.O. Saar, S. Löw, Th. Driesner, H. Maurer, and D. Giardini, The seismo-hydro-mechanical behaviour during deep geothermal reservoir stimulations: open questions tackled in a decameter-scale in-situ stimulation experiment, Solid Earth, 9, pp. 115-137, 2018. [Download] [View Abstract]In this contribution, we present a review of scientific research results that address seismo-hydromechanically coupled processes relevant for the development of a sustainable heat exchanger in low-permeability crystalline rock and introduce the design of the In situ Stimulation and Circulation (ISC) experiment at the Grimsel Test Site dedicated to studying such processes under controlled conditions. The review shows that research on reservoir stimulation for deep geothermal energy exploitation has been largely based on laboratory observations, large-scale projects and numerical models. Observations of full-scale reservoir stimulations have yielded important results. However, the limited access to the reservoir and limitations in the control on the experimental conditions during deep reservoir stimulations is insufficient to resolve the details of the hydromechanical processes that would enhance process understanding in a way that aids future stimulation design. Small-scale laboratory experiments provide fundamental insights into various processes relevant for enhanced geothermal energy, but suffer from (1) difficulties and uncertainties in upscaling the results to the field scale and (2) relatively homogeneous material and stress conditions that lead to an oversimplistic fracture flow and/or hydraulic fracture propagation behavior that is not representative of a heterogeneous reservoir. Thus, there is a need for intermediate-scale hydraulic stimulation experiments with high experimental control that bridge the various scales and for which access to the target rock mass with a comprehensive monitoring system is possible. The ISC experiment is designed to address open research questions in a naturally fractured and faulted crystalline rock mass at the Grimsel Test Site (Switzerland). Two hydraulic injection phases were executed to enhance the permeability of the rock mass. During the injection phases the rock mass deformation across fractures and within intact rock, the pore pressure distribution and propagation, and the microseismic response were monitored at a high spatial and temporal resolution.

Mikutis, G., C.A. Deuber, L. Schmid, A. Kittilä, N. Lobsiger, M. Puddu, D.O. Asgeirsson, R.N. Grass, M.O. Saar, and W.J. Stark, Silica-encapsulated DNA-based tracers for aquifer characterization, Environmental Science & Technology, 52, pp. 12142-12152, 2018. [Download] [View Abstract]Environmental tracing is a direct way to characterize aquifers, evaluate the solute transfer parameter in underground reservoirs, and track contamination. By performing multitracer tests, and translating the tracer breakthrough times into tomographic maps, key parameters such as a reservoir’s effective porosity and permeability field may be obtained. DNA, with its modular design, allows the generation of a virtually unlimited number of distinguishable tracers. To overcome the insufficient DNA stability due to microbial activity, heat, and chemical stress, we present a method to encapsulated DNA into silica with control over the particle size. The reliability of DNA quantification is improved by the sample preservation with NaN3 and particle redispersion strategies. In both sand column and unconsolidated aquifer experiments, DNA-based particle tracers exhibited slightly earlier and sharper breakthrough than the traditional solute tracer uranine. The reason behind this observation is the size exclusion effect, whereby larger tracer particles are excluded from small pores, and are therefore transported with higher average velocity, which is pore size-dependent. Identical surface properties, and thus flow behavior, makes the new material an attractive tracer to characterize sandy groundwater reservoirs or to track multiple sources of contaminants with high spatial resolution.

Hobé, A., D. Vogler, M.P. Seybold, A. Ebigbo, R.R. Settgast, and M.O. Saar, Estimating Fluid Flow Rates through Fracture Networks using Combinatorial Optimization, Advances in Water Resources, 122, pp. 85-97, 2018. [Download] [View Abstract]To enable fast uncertainty quantification of fluid flow in a discrete fracture network (DFN), we present two approaches to quickly compute fluid flow in DFNs using combinatorial optimization algorithms. Specifically, the presented Hanan Shortest Path Maxflow (HSPM) and Intersection Shortest Path Maxflow (ISPM) methods translate DFN geometries and properties to a graph on which a max flow algorithm computes a combinatorial flow, from which an overall fluid flow rate is estimated using a shortest path decomposition of this flow. The two approaches are assessed by comparing their predictions with results from explicit numerical simulations of simple test cases as well as stochastic DFN realizations covering a range of fracture densities. Both methods have a high accuracy and very low computational cost, which can facilitate much-needed in-depth analyses of the propagation of uncertainty in fracture and fracture-network properties to fluid flow rates.

Rossi, E., M.A. Kant, C. Madonna, M.O. Saar, and Ph. Rudolf von Rohr, The Effects of High Heating Rate and High Temperature on the Rock Strength: Feasibility Study of a Thermally Assisted Drilling Method, Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering, 51/9, pp. 2957-2964 , 2018. [Download] [View Abstract]In this paper, the feasibility of a thermally assisted drilling method is investigated. The working principle of this method is based on the weakening effect of a flame-jet to enhance the drilling performance of conventional, mechanical drilling. To investigate its effectiveness, we study rock weakening after rapid, localized flame-jet heating of Rorschach sandstone and Central Aare granite. We perform experiments on rock strength after flame treatments in comparison to oven heating, for temperatures up to 650 \(^{\circ} \)C and heating rates from 0.17 to 20 \(^{\circ} \)C/s. The material hardening, commonly observed at moderate temperatures after oven treatments, can be suppressed by flame heating the material at high heating rates. Our study highlights the influence of the heating rate on the mechanism of thermal microcracking. High heating rate, flame treatments appear to mostly induce cracks at the grain boundaries, opposed to slow oven treatments, where also a considerable number of intragranular cracks are found. Herewith, we postulate that at low heating rates, thermal expansion stresses cause the observed thermal cracking. In contrast, at higher heating rates, thermal cracking is dominated by the stress concentrations caused by high thermal gradients.

Samrock, F., A.V. Grayver, H. Eysteinsson, and M.O. Saar, Magnetotelluric image of transcrustal magmatic system beneath the Tulu Moye geothermal prospect in the Ethiopian Rift, Geophysical Research Letters, 2018. [Download] [View Abstract]Continental rifting is initiated by a dynamic interplay between tectonic stretching and mantle upwelling. Decompression melting assists continental break-up through lithospheric weakening and enforces upflow of melt to the Earth’s surface. However, the details about melt transport through the brittle crust and storage under narrow rift-aligned magmatic segments remain largely unclear. Here we present a crustal scale electrical conductivity model for a magmatic segment in the Ethiopian Rift, derived from 3-D phase tensor inversion of magnetotelluric data. Our subsurface model shows that melt migrates along pre-existing weak structures and is stored in different concentrations on two major interconnected levels, facilitating the formation of a convective hydrothermal system. The obtained model of a transcrustal magmatic system offers new insights into rifting mechanisms, evolution of magma ascent, and prospective geothermal reservoirs.

Kant, M.A., E. Rossi, J. Duss, F. Amman, M.O. Saar, and P. Rudolf von Rohr, Demonstration of thermal borehole enlargement to facilitate controlled reservoir engineering for deep geothermal, oil or gas systems, Applied Energy, 212, pp. 1501-1509, 2018. [Download] [View Abstract]The creation of deep reservoirs for geothermal energy or oil and gas extraction is impeded by insu cient stimulation. Direction and extension of the created fractures are complex to control and, therefore, large stimulated and interconnected fracture networks are di cult to create. This poses an inherent risk of un- economic reservoirs, due to insu cient heat-sweep surfaces or hydraulic shortcuts. Therefore, we present a new technique, which locally increases the cross section of a borehole by utilizing a thermal spallation process on the sidewalls of the borehole. By controlled and local enlargement of the well bore diameter, initial fracture sources are created, potentially reducing the injection pressure during stimulation, initiating fracture growth, optimizing fracture propagation and increasing the number of accessible preexisting frac- tures. Consequently, local thermal borehole enlargement reduces project failure risks by providing better control on subsequent stimulation processes. In order to show the applicability of the suggested technique, we conducted a shallow field test in an underground rock laboratory. Two types of borehole enlargements were created in a 14.5 m deep borehole, confirming that the technology is applicable, with implications for improving the productivity of geothermal, oil and gas reservoirs.

Walsh, S.D.C., N. Garapati, A.M.M. Leal, and M.O. Saar, Calculating thermophysical fluid properties during geothermal energy production with NESS and Reaktoro, Geothermics, 70, pp. 146-154, 2017. [Download] [View Abstract]We investigate how subsurface fluids of different compositions affect the electricity generation of geothermal power plants. First, we outline a numerical model capable of accounting for the thermophysical properties of geothermal fluids of arbitrary composition within simulations of geothermal power production. The behavior of brines with varying compositions from geothermal sites around the globe are then examined using the model. The effect of each brine on an idealized binary geothermal power plant is simulated, and their performances compared by calculating the amount of heat exchanged from the fluid to the plant's secondary cycle. Our simulations combine (1) a newly developed Non-linear Equation System Solver (NESS), for simulating individual geothermal power plant components, (2) the advanced geochemical speciation solver, Reaktoro, used for calculation of thermodynamic fluid properties, and (3) compositional models for the calculation of fluid-dynamical properties (e.g., viscosity as a function of temperature and brine composition). The accuracy of the model is verified by comparing its predictions with experimental data from single-salt, binary-salt, and multiple-salt solutions. The geothermal power plant simulations show that the brines considered in this study can be divided into three main categories: (1) those of largely meteoric origin with low salinity for which the effect of salt concentration is negligible; (2) moderate-depth brines with high concentrations of Na+ and K+ ions, whose performance is well approximated by pure NaCl solutions of equivalent salinity; and (3) deeper, high-salinity brines that require a more detailed consideration of their composition for accurate simulation of plant operations.

Leal, A.M.M., D.A. Kulik, W.R. Smith, and M.O. Saar, An overview of computational methods for chemical equilibrium and kinetic calculations for geochemical and reactive transport modeling, Pure and Applied Chemistry, 89/5, pp. 597-643, 2017. [Download] [View Abstract]We present an overview of novel numerical methods for chemical equilibrium and kinetic calculations for complex non-ideal multiphase systems. The methods we present for equilibrium calculations are based either on Gibbs energy minimization (GEM) calculations or on solving the system of extended law of mass-action (xLMA) equations. In both methods, no a posteriori phase stability tests, and thus no tentative addition or removal of phases during or at the end of the calculations, are necessary. All potentially stable phases are considered from the beginning of the calculation, and stability indices are immediately available at the end of the computation to determine which phases are actually stable at equilibrium. Both GEM and xLMA equilibrium methods are tailored for computationally demanding applications that require many rapid local equilibrium calculations, such as reactive transport modeling. The numerical method for chemical kinetic calculations we present supports both closed and open systems, and it considers a partial equilibrium simplification for fast reactions. The method employs an implicit integration scheme that improves stability and speed when solving the often stiff differential equations in kinetic calculations. As such, it requires compositional derivatives of the reaction rates to assemble the Jacobian matrix of the resultant implicit algebraic equations that are solved at every time step. We present a detailed procedure to calculate these derivatives, and we show how the partial equilibrium assumption affects their computation. These numerical methods have been implemented in Reaktoro (, an open-source software for modeling chemically reactive systems. We finish with a discussion on the comparison of these methods with others in the literature.

Myre, J.M., E. Frahm, D.J. Lilja, and M.O. Saar, TNT-NN: A Fast Active Set Method for Solving Large Non-Negative Least Squares Problems, Procedia Computer Science, 108C, pp. 755-764, 2017. [Download] [View Abstract]In 1974 Lawson and Hanson produced a seminal active set strategy to solve least-squares prob- lems with non-negativity constraints that remains popular today. In this paper we present TNT-NN, a new active set method for solving non-negative least squares (NNLS) problems. TNT-NN uses a different strategy not only for the construction of the active set but also for the solution of the unconstrained least squares sub-problem. This results in dramatically improved performance over traditional active set NNLS solvers, including the Lawson and Hanson NNLS algorithm and the Fast NNLS (FNNLS) algorithm, allowing for computational investigations of new types of scientific and engineering problems. For the small systems tested (5000 × 5000 or smaller), it is shown that TNT-NN is up to 95× faster than FNNLS. Recent studies in rock magnetism have revealed a need for fast NNLS algorithms to address large problems (on the order of 105 × 105 or larger). We apply the TNT- NN algorithm to a representative rock magnetism inversion problem where it is 60× faster than FNNLS. We also show that TNT-NN is capable of solving large (45000 × 45000) problems more than 150× faster than FNNLS. These large test problems were previously considered to be unsolvable, due to the excessive execution time required by traditional methods.

Luhmann, A.J., B.M. Tutolo, C. Tan, B.M. Moskowitz, M.O. Saar, and W.E. Seyfried, Jr., Whole rock basalt alteration from CO2-rich brine during flow-through experiments at 150°C and 150 bar, Chemical Geology, 453, pp. 92-110, 2017. [Download] [View Abstract]Four flow-through experiments at 150 °C were conducted on intact cores of basalt to assess alteration and mass transfer during reaction with CO2-rich fluid. Two experiments used a flow rate of 0.1 ml/min, and two used a flow rate of 0.01 ml/min. Permeability increased for both experiments at the higher flow rate, but decreased for the lower flow rate experiments. The experimental fluid (initial pH of 3.3) became enriched in Si, Mg, and Fe upon passing through the cores, primarily from olivine and titanomagnetite dissolution and possibly pyroxene dissolution. Secondary minerals enriched in Al and Si were present on post-experimental cores, and an Fe2O3-rich phase was identified on the downstream ends of the cores from the experiments at the lower flow rate. While we could not specifically identify if siderite (FeCO3) was present in the post-experimental basalt cores, siderite was generally saturated or supersaturated in outlet fluid samples, suggesting a thermodynamic drive for Fe carbonation from basalt-H2O-CO2 reaction. Reaction path models that employ dissolution kinetics of olivine, labradorite, and enstatite also suggest siderite formation at low pH. Furthermore, fluid-rock interaction caused a relatively high mobility of the alkali metals; up to 29% and 99% of the K and Cs present in the core, respectively, were preferentially dissolved from the cores, likely due to fractional crystallization effects that made alkali metals highly accessible. Together, these datasets illustrate changes in chemical parameters that arise due to fluid-basalt interaction in relatively low pH environments with elevated CO2.

Luhmann, A.J., B.M. Tutolo, B.C. Bagley, D.F.R. Mildner, W.E. Seyfried Jr., and M.O. Saar, Permeability, porosity, and mineral surface area changes in basalt cores induced by reactive transport of CO2-rich brine, Water Resources Research, 53, pp. 1-20, 2017. [Download] [View Abstract]Four reactive flow-through laboratory experiments (two each at 0.1 mL/min and 0.01 mL/min flow rates) at 150°C and 150 bar (15 MPa) are conducted on intact basalt cores to assess changes in porosity, permeability, and surface area caused by CO2-rich fluid-rock interaction. Permeability decreases slightly during the lower flow rate experiments and increases during the higher flow rate experiments. At the higher flow rate, core permeability increases by more than one order of magnitude in one experiment and less than a factor of two in the other due to differences in preexisting flow path structure. X-ray computed tomography (XRCT) scans of pre- and post-experiment cores identify both mineral dissolution and secondary mineralization, with a net decrease in XRCT porosity of ∼0.7%–0.8% for the larger pores in all four cores. (Ultra) small-angle neutron scattering ((U)SANS) data sets indicate an increase in both (U)SANS porosity and specific surface area (SSA) over the ∼1 nm to 10 µm scale range in post-experiment basalt samples, with differences due to flow rate and reaction time. Net porosity increases from summing porosity changes from XRCT and (U)SANS analyses are consistent with core mass decreases. (U)SANS data suggest an overall preservation of the pore structure with no change in mineral surface roughness from reaction, and the pore structure is unique in comparison to previously published basalt analyses. Together, these data sets illustrate changes in physical parameters that arise due to fluid-basalt interaction in relatively low pH environments with elevated CO2 concentration, with significant implications for flow, transport, and reaction through geologic formations.

Buscheck, T.A., J.M. Bielicki, T.A. Edmunds, Y. Hao, Y. Sun, J.B. Randolph, and M.O. Saar, Multifluid geo-energy systems: Using geologic CO2 storage for geothermal energy production and grid-scale energy storage in sedimentary basins, Geosphere, 12/3, pp. 1-19, 2016. [Download] [View Abstract]We present an approach that uses the huge fluid and thermal storage capac ity of the subsurface, together with geologic carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) storage, to harvest, store, and dispatch energy from subsurface (geothermal) and surface (solar, nuclear, fossil) thermal resources, as well as excess energy on electric grids. Captured CO 2 is injected into saline aquifers to store pres - sure, generate artesian flow of brine, and provide a supplemental working fluid for efficient heat extraction and power conversion. Concentric rings of injection and production wells create a hydraulic mound to store pressure, CO 2 , and thermal energy. This energy storage can take excess power from the grid and excess and/or waste thermal energy and dispatch that energy when it is demanded, and thus enable higher penetration of variable renewable en - ergy technologies (e.g., wind and solar). CO 2 stored in the subsurface func - tions as a cushion gas to provide enormous pressure storage capacity and displace large quantities of brine, some of which can be treated for a variety of beneficial uses. Geo thermal power and energy-storage applications may generate enough revenues to compensate for CO 2 capture costs. While our ap - proach can use nitrogen (N 2 ), in addition to CO 2 , as a supplemental fluid, and store thermal energy, this study focuses on using CO 2 for geothermal energy production and grid-scale energy storage. We conduct a techno-economic assess ment to determine the levelized cost of electricity using this approach to generate geothermal power. We present a reservoir pressure management strategy that diverts a small portion of the produced brine for beneficial con - sumptive use to reduce the pumping cost of fluid recirculation, while reducing the risk of seismicity, caprock fracture, and CO 2 leakage.

Leal, A.M.M., D.A. Kulik, and M.O. Saar, Enabling Gibbs energy minimization algorithms to use equilibrium constants of reactions in multiphase equilibrium calculations, Chemical Geology, 437, pp. 170-181, 2016. [Download] [View Abstract]The geochemical literature provides numerous thermodynamic databases compiled from equilibrium constants of reactions. These databases are typically used in speciation calculations based on the law of mass action (LMA) approach. Unfortunately, such LMA databases cannot be directly used in equilibrium speciation methods based on the Gibbs energy minimization (GEM) approach because of their lack of standard chemical potentials of species. Therefore, we present in this work a simple conversion approach that calculates apparent standard chemical potentials of species from equilibrium constants of reactions. We assess the consistency and accuracy of the use of apparent standard chemical potentials in GEM algorithms by benchmarking equilibrium speciation calculations using GEM and LMA methods with the same LMA database. In all cases, we use PHREEQC to perform the LMA calculations, and we use its LMA databases to calculate the equilibrium constants of reactions. GEM calculations are performed using a Gibbs energy minimization method of Reaktoro — a unified open-source framework for numerical modeling of chemically reactive systems. By comparing the GEM and LMA results, we show that the use of apparent standard chemical potentials in GEM methods produces consistent and accurate equilibrium speciation results, thus validating our new, practical conversion technique that enables GEM algorithms to take advantage of many existing LMA databases, consequently extending and diversifying their range of applicability.

Tutolo, B.M., D.F. Mildner, C.V. Gagnon, M.O. Saar, and W.E. Seyfried, Nanoscale constraints on porosity generation and fluid flow during serpentinization, Geology, 44/2, pp. 103-106, 2016. [Download] [View Abstract]Field samples of olivine-rich rocks are nearly always serpentinized—commonly to completion—but, paradoxically, their intrinsic porosity and permeability are diminishingly low. Serpentinization reactions occur through a coupled process of fluid infiltration, volumetric expansion, and reaction-driven fracturing. Pores and reactive surface area generated during this process are the primary pathways for fluid infiltration into and reaction with serpentinizing rocks, but the size and distribution of these pores and surface area have not yet been described. Here, we utilize neutron scattering techniques to present the first measurements of the evolution of pore size and specific surface area distribution in partially serpentinized rocks. Samples were obtained from the ca. 2 Ma Atlantis Massif oceanic core complex located off-axis of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and an olivine-rich outcrop of the ca. 1.1 Ga Duluth Complex of the North American Mid-Continent Rift. Our measurements and analyses demonstrate that serpentine and accessory phases form with their own, inherent porosity, which accommodates the bulk of diffusive fluid flow during serpentinization and thereby permits continued serpentinization after voluminous serpentine minerals fill reaction-generated porosity.

Leal, A.M.M., D. Kulik, G. Kosakowski, and M.O. Saar, Computational methods for reactive transport modeling: An extended law of mass-action, xLMA, method for multiphase equilibrium calculations, Advances in Water Resources, 96, pp. 405-422, 2016. [Download] [View Abstract]We present a numerical method for multiphase chemical equilibrium calculations based on a Gibbs energy minimization approach. The method can accurately and efficiently determine the stable phase assemblage at equilibrium independently of the type of phases and species that constitute the chemical system. We have successfully applied our chemical equilibrium algorithm in reactive transport simulations to demonstrate its effective use in computationally intensive applications. We used FEniCS to solve the governing partial differential equations of mass transport in porous media using finite element methods in unstructured meshes. Our equilibrium calculations were benchmarked with GEMS3K, the numerical kernel of the geochemical package GEMS. This allowed us to compare our results with a well-established Gibbs energy minimization algorithm, as well as their performance on every mesh node, at every time step of the transport simulation. The benchmark shows that our novel chemical equilibrium algorithm is accurate, robust, and efficient for reactive transport applications, and it is an improvement over the Gibbs energy minimization algorithm used in GEMS3K. The proposed chemical equilibrium method has been implemented in Reaktoro, a unified framework for modeling chemically reactive systems, which is now used as an alternative numerical kernel of GEMS.

Luhmann, A.J., M. Covington, J. Myre, M. Perne, S.W. Jones, C.E. Alexander Jr., and M.O. Saar, Thermal damping and retardation in karst conduits, Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 19/1, pp. 137-157, 2015. [Download] [View Abstract]Water temperature is a non-conservative tracer in the environment. Variations in recharge temperature are damped and retarded as water moves through an aquifer due to heat exchange between water and rock. However, within karst aquifers, seasonal and short-term fluctuations in recharge temperature are often transmitted over long distances before they are fully damped. Using analytical solutions and numerical simulations, we develop relationships that describe the effect of flow path properties, flow-through time, recharge characteristics, and water and rock physical properties on the damping and retardation of thermal peaks/troughs in karst conduits. Using these relationships, one can estimate the thermal retardation and damping that would occur under given conditions with a given conduit geometry. Ultimately, these relationships can be used with thermal damping and retardation field data to estimate parameters such as conduit diameter. We also examine sets of numerical simulations where we relax some of the assumptions used to develop these relationships, testing the effects of variable diameter, variable velocity, open channels, and recharge shape on thermal damping and retardation to provide some constraints on uncertainty. Finally, we discuss a multitracer experiment that provides some field confirmation of our relationships. High temporal resolution water temperature data are required to obtain sufficient constraints on the magnitude and timing of thermal peaks and troughs in order to take full advantage of water temperature as a tracer.

Adams, B.M., T.H. Kuehn, J.M. Bielicki, J.B. Randolph, and M.O. Saar, A comparison of electric power output of CO2 Plume Geothermal (CPG) and brine geothermal systems for varying reservoir conditions, Applied Energy, 140, pp. 365-377, 2015. [Download] [View Abstract]In contrast to conventional hydrothermal systems or enhanced geothermal systems, CO2 Plume Geothermal (CPG) systems generate electricity by using CO2 that has been geothermally heated due to sequestration in a sedimentary basin. Four CPG and two brine-based geothermal systems are modeled to estimate their power production for sedimentary basin reservoir depths between 1 and 5km, geothermal temperature gradients from 20 to 50°Ckm-1, reservoir permeabilities from 1×10-15 to 1×10-12m2 and well casing inner diameters from 0.14m to 0.41m. Results show that CPG direct-type systems produce more electricity than brine-based geothermal systems at depths between 2 and 3km, and at permeabilities between 10-14 and 10-13m2, often by a factor of two. This better performance of CPG is due to the low kinematic viscosity of CO2, relative to brine at those depths, and the strong thermosiphon effect generated by CO2. When CO2 is used instead of R245fa as the secondary working fluid in an organic Rankine cycle (ORC), the power production of both the CPG and the brine-reservoir system increases substantially; for example, by 22% and 20% for subsurface brine and CO2 systems, respectively, with a 35°Ckm-1 thermal gradient, 0.27m production and 0.41m injection well diameters, and 5×10-14m2 reservoir permeability.

Tutolo, B.M., A.T. Schaen, M.O. Saar, and W.E. Seyfried Jr., Implications of the redissociation phenomenon for mineral-buffered fluids and aqueous species transport at elevated temperatures and pressures, Applied Geochemistry, 55, pp. 119-127, 2015. [Download] [View Abstract]Aqueous species equilibrium constants and activity models form the foundation of the complex speciation codes used to model the geochemistry of geothermal energy production, extremophilic ecosystems, ore deposition, and a variety of other processes. Researchers have shown that a simple three species model (i.e., Na+, Cl?, and NaCl(aq)) can accurately describe conductivity measurements of concentrated NaCl and KCl solutions at elevated temperatures and pressures (Sharygin et al., 2002). In this model, activity coefficients of the charged species (e.g., Na+, K+, Cl?) become sufficiently low that the complexes must redisocciate with increasing salt concentration in order to meet equilibrium constant constraints. Redissociation decreases the proportion of the elements bound up as neutral complexes, and thereby increases the true ionic strength of the solution. In this contribution, we explore the consequences of the redissociation phenomenon in albite–paragonite–quartz (APQ) buffered systems. We focus on the implications of the redissociation phenomenon for mineral solubilities, particularly the observation that, at certain temperatures and pressures, calculated activities of charged ions in solution remain practically constant even as element concentrations increase from <1 molal to 4.5 molal. Finally, we note that redissociation has a similar effect on pH, and therefore aqueous speciation, in APQ-hosted systems. The calculations and discussion presented here are not limited to APQ-hosted systems, but additionally apply to many others in which the dominant cations and anions can form neutral complexes.

Garapati, N., J.B. Randolph, and M.O. Saar, Brine displacement by CO2, energy extraction rates, and lifespan of a CO2-limited CO2-Plume Geothermal (CPG) system with a horizontal production well, Geothermics, 55, pp. 182-194, 2015. [Download] [View Abstract]Several studies suggest that CO2-based geothermal energy systems may be operated economically when added to ongoing geologic CO2 sequestration. Alternatively, we demonstrate here that CO2-Plume Geothermal (CPG) systems may be operated long-term with a finite amount of CO2. We analyze the performance of such CO2-limited CPG systems as a function of various geologic and operational parameters. We find that the amount of CO2 required increases with reservoir depth, permeability, and well spacing and decreases with larger geothermal gradients. Furthermore, the onset of reservoir heat depletion decreases for increasing geothermal gradients and for both particularly shallow and deep reservoirs.

Tutolo, B.M., A.J. Luhmann, X.-Z. Kong, M.O. Saar, and W.E. Seyfried Jr., CO2 sequestration in feldspar-rich sandstone: Coupled evolution of fluid chemistry, mineral reaction rates, and hydrogeochemical properties, Geochimica Et Cosmochimica Acta, 160, pp. 132-154, 2015. [Download] [View Abstract]To investigate CO2 Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) in sandstones, we performed three 150 °C flow-through experiments on K-feldspar-rich cores from the Eau Claire formation. By characterizing fluid and solid samples from these experiments using a suite of analytical techniques, we explored the coupled evolution of fluid chemistry, mineral reaction rates, and hydrogeochemical properties during CO2 sequestration in feldspar-rich sandstone. Overall, our results confirm predictions that the heightened acidity resulting from supercritical CO2 injection into feldspar-rich sandstone will dissolve primary feldspars and precipitate secondary aluminum minerals. A core through which CO2-rich deionized water was recycled for 52 days decreased in bulk permeability, exhibited generally low porosity associated with high surface area in post-experiment core sub-samples, and produced an Al hydroxide secondary mineral, such as boehmite. However, two samples subjected to ?3 day single-pass experiments run with CO2-rich, 0.94 mol/kg NaCl brines decreased in bulk permeability, showed generally elevated porosity associated with elevated surface area in post-experiment core sub-samples, and produced a phase with kaolinite-like stoichiometry. CO2-induced metal mobilization during the experiments was relatively minor and likely related to Ca mineral dissolution. Based on the relatively rapid approach to equilibrium, the relatively slow near-equilibrium reaction rates, and the minor magnitudes of permeability changes in these experiments, we conclude that CCUS systems with projected lifetimes of several decades are geochemically feasible in the feldspar-rich sandstone end-member examined here. Additionally, the observation that K-feldspar dissolution rates calculated from our whole-rock experiments are in good agreement with literature parameterizations suggests that the latter can be utilized to model CCUS in K-feldspar-rich sandstone. Finally, by performing a number of reactive transport modeling experiments to explore processes occurring during the flow-through experiments, we have found that the overall progress of feldspar hydrolysis is negligibly affected by quartz dissolution, but significantly impacted by the rates of secondary mineral precipitation and their effect on feldspar saturation state. The observations produced here are critical to the development of models of CCUS operations, yet more work, particularly in the quantification of coupled dissolution and precipitation processes, will be required in order to produce models that can accurately predict the behavior of these systems.

Tutolo, B.M., X.-Z. Kong, W.E. Seyfried Jr., and M.O. Saar, High performance reactive transport simulations examining the effects of thermal, hydraulic, and chemical (THC) gradients on fluid injectivity at carbonate CCUS reservoir scales, International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control, 39, pp. 285-301, 2015. [Download] [View Abstract]Carbonate minerals and CO2 are both considerably more soluble at low temperatures than they are at elevated temperatures. This inverse solubility has led a number of researchers to hypothesize that injecting low-temperature (i.e., less than the background reservoir temperature) CO2 into deep, saline reservoirs for CO2 Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) will dissolve CO2 and carbonate minerals near the injection well and subsequently exsolve and re-precipitate these phases as the fluids flow into the geothermally warm portion of the reservoir. In this study, we utilize high performance computing to examine the coupled effects of cool CO2 injection and background hydraulic head gradients on reservoir-scale mineral volume changes. We employ the fully coupled reactive transport simulator PFLOTRAN with calculations distributed over up to 800 processors to test 21 scenarios designed to represent a range of reservoir depths, hydraulic head gradients, and CO2 injection rates and temperatures. In the default simulations, 50 °C CO2 is injected at a rate of 50 kg/s into a 200 bar, 100 °C calcite or dolomite reservoir. By comparing these simulations with others run at varying conditions, we show that the effect of cool CO2 injection on reservoir-scale mineral volume changes tends to be relatively minor. We conclude that the low heat capacity of CO2 effectively prevents low-temperature CO2 injection from decreasing the temperature across large portions of the simulated carbonate reservoirs. This small thermal perturbation, combined with the low relative permeability of brine within the supercritical CO2 plume, yields limited dissolution and precipitation effects directly attributable to cool CO2 injection. Finally, we calculate that relatively high water-to-rock ratios, which may occur over much longer CCUS reservoir lifetimes or in materials with sufficiently high brine relative permeability within the supercritical CO2 plume, would be required to substantially affect injectivity through thermally-induced mineral dissolution and precipitation. Importantly, this study shows the utility of reservoir scale-reactive transport simulators for testing hypotheses and placing laboratory-scale observations into a CCUS reservoir-scale context.

Buscheck, T.A., J.M. Bielicki, M. Chen, Y. Sun, Y. Hao, T.A. Edmunds, M.O. Saar, and J.B. Randolph, Integrating CO2 Storage with Geothermal Resources for Dispatchable Renewable Electricity, Energy procedia, 63, pp. 7619-7630, 2014. [Download] [View Abstract]We present an approach that uses the huge fluid and thermal storage capacity of the subsurface, together with geologic CO2 storage, to harvest, store, and dispatch energy from subsurface (geothermal) and surface (solar, nuclear, fossil) thermal resources, as well as energy from electrical grids. Captured CO2 is injected into saline aquifers to store pressure, generate artesian flow of brine, and provide an additional working fluid for efficient heat extraction and power conversion. Concentric rings of injection and production wells are used to create a hydraulic divide to store pressure, CO2, and thermal energy. Such storage can take excess power from the grid and excess/waste thermal energy, and dispatch that energy when it is demanded, enabling increased penetration of variable renewables. Stored CO2 functions as a cushion gas to provide enormous pressure-storage capacity and displaces large quantities of brine, which can be desalinated and/or treated for a variety of beneficial uses. Geothermal power and energy-storage applications may generate enough revenues to justify CO2 capture costs.

Garapati, N., J.B. Randolph, J.L. Valencia Jr., and M.O. Saar, CO2-Plume Geothermal (CPG) Heat Extraction in Multi-layered Geologic Reservoirs, Energy Procedia, 63, pp. 7631-7643, 2014. [Download] [View Abstract]CO2-Plume Geothermal (CPG) technology involves injecting CO2 into natural, highly permeable geologic units to extract energy. The subsurface CO2 absorbs heat from the reservoir, buoyantly rises to the surface, and drives a power generation system. The CO2 is then cooled and reinjected underground. Here, we analyze the effects of multi-layered geologic reservoirs on CPG system performance by examining the CO2 mass fraction in the produced fluid, pore-fluid pressure buildup during operation, and heat energy extraction rates. The produced CO2 mass fraction depends on the stratigraphic positions of highly permeable layers which also affect the pore-fluid pressure drop across the reservoir.

Adams, B.M., T.H. Kuehn, J.M. Bielicki, J.B. Randolph, and M.O. Saar, On the importance of the thermosiphon effect in CPG (CO2-Plume geothermal) power systems, Energy, 69, pp. 409-418, 2014. [Download] [View Abstract]CPG (CO2 Plume Geothermal) energy systems use CO2 to extract thermal energy from naturally permeable geologic formations at depth. CO2 has advantages over brine: high mobility, low solubility of amorphous silica, and higher density sensitivity to temperature. The density of CO2 changes substantially between geothermal reservoir and surface plant, resulting in a buoyancy-driven convective current – a thermosiphon – that reduces or eliminates pumping requirements. We estimated and compared the strength of this thermosiphon for CO2 and for 20 weight percent NaCl brine for reservoir depths up to 5 km and geothermal gradients of 20, 35, and 50 °C/km. We found that through the reservoir, CO2 has a pressure drop approximately 3–12 times less than brine at the same mass flowrate, making the CO2 thermosiphon sufficient to produce power using reservoirs as shallow as 0.5 km. At 2.5 km depth with a 35 °C/km gradient – the approximate western U.S. continental mean – the CO2 thermosiphon converted approximately 10% of the energy extracted from the reservoir to fluid circulation, compared to less than 1% with brine, where additional mechanical pumping is necessary. We found CO2 is a particularly advantageous working fluid at depths between 0.5 km and 3 km.

Tutolo, B.M., X.-Z. Kong, W.E. Seyfried Jr., and M.O. Saar, Internal consistency in aqueous geochemical data revisited: Applications to the aluminum system, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 133, pp. 216-234, 2014. [Download] [View Abstract]Internal consistency of thermodynamic data has long been considered vital for confident calculations of aqueous geochemical processes. However, an internally consistent mineral thermodynamic data set is not necessarily consistent with calculations of aqueous species thermodynamic properties due, potentially, to improper or inconsistent constraints used in the derivation process. In this study, we attempt to accommodate the need for a mineral thermodynamic data set that is internally consistent with respect to aqueous species thermodynamic properties by adapting the least squares optimization methods of Powell and Holland (1985). This adapted method allows for both the derivation of mineral thermodynamic properties from fluid chemistry measurements of solutions in equilibrium with mineral assemblages, as well as estimates of the uncertainty on the derived results. Using a large number of phase equilibria, solubility, and calorimetric measurements, we have developed a thermodynamic data set of 12 key aluminum-bearing mineral phases. These data are derived to be consistent with Na+ and K+ speciation data presented by Shock and Helgeson (1988), H4SiO4(aq) data presented by Stefánsson (2001), and the Al speciation data set presented by Tagirov and Schott (2001). Many of the constraining phase equilibrium measurements are exactly the same as those used to develop other thermodynamic data, yet our derived values tend to be quite different than some of the others’ due to our choices of reference data. The differing values of mineral thermodynamic properties have implications for calculations of Al mineral solubilities; specifically, kaolinite solubilities calculated with the developed data set are as much as 6.75 times lower and 73% greater than those calculated with Helgeson et al. (1978) and Holland and Powell (2011) data, respectively. Where possible, calculations and experimental data are compared at low T, and the disagreement between the two sources reiterates the common assertion that low-T measurements of phase equilibria and mineral solubilities in the aluminum system rarely represent equilibrium between water and well-crystallized, aluminum-bearing minerals. As an ancillary benefit of the derived data, we show that it may be combined with high precision measurements of aqueous complex association constants to derive neutral species activity coefficients in supercritical fluids. Although this contribution is specific to the aluminum system, the methods and concepts developed here can help to improve the calculation of water–rock interactions in a broad range of earth systems.

Luhmann, A.J., X.-Z. Kong, B.M. Tutolo, N. Garapati, B.C. Bagley, M.O. Saar, and W.E. Seyfried Jr., Experimental dissolution of dolomite by CO2-charged brine at 100oC and 150 bar: Evolution of porosity, permeability, and reactive surface area, Chemical Geology, 380, pp. 145-160, 2014. [Download] [View Abstract]Hydrothermal flow experiments of single-pass injection of CO2-charged brine were conducted on nine dolomite cores to examine fluid–rock reactions in dolomite reservoirs under geologic carbon sequestration conditions. Post-experimental X-ray computed tomography (XRCT) analysis illustrates a range of dissolution patterns, and significant increases in core bulk permeability were measured as the dolomite dissolved. Outflow fluids were below dolomite saturation, and cation concentrations decreased with time due to reductions in reactive surface area with reaction progress. To determine changes in reactive surface area, we employ a power-law relationship between reactive surface area and porosity (Luquot and Gouze, 2009). The exponent in this relationship is interpreted to be a geometrical parameter that controls the degree of surface area change per change in core porosity. Combined with XRCT reconstructions of dissolution patterns, we demonstrate that this exponent is inversely related to both the flow path diameter and tortuosity of the dissolution channel. Even though XRCT reconstructions illustrate dissolution at selected regions within each core, relatively high Ba and Mn recoveries in fluid samples suggest that dissolution occurred along the core's entire length and width. Analysis of porosity–permeability data indicates an increase in the rate of permeability enhancement per increase in porosity with reaction progress as dissolution channels lengthen along the core. Finally, we incorporate the surface area–porosity model of Luquot and Gouze (2009) with our experimentally fit parameters into TOUGHREACT to simulate experimental observations.

Tutolo, B.M., A.J. Luhmann, X.-Z. Kong, M.O. Saar, and W.E. Seyfried Jr., Experimental observation of permeability changes in dolomite at CO2 sequestration conditions, Environmental Science and Technology, 48/4, pp. 2445-2452, 2014. [Download] [View Abstract]Injection of cool CO2 into geothermally warm carbonate reservoirs for storage or geothermal energy production may lower near-well temperature and lead to mass transfer along flow paths leading away from the well. To investigate this process, a dolomite core was subjected to a 650 h, high pressure, CO2 saturated, flow-through experiment. Permeability increased from 10–15.9 to 10–15.2 m2 over the initial 216 h at 21 °C, decreased to 10–16.2 m2 over 289 h at 50 °C, largely due to thermally driven CO2 exsolution, and reached a final value of 10–16.4 m2 after 145 h at 100 °C due to continued exsolution and the onset of dolomite precipitation. Theoretical calculations show that CO2 exsolution results in a maximum pore space CO2 saturation of 0.5, and steady state relative permeabilities of CO2 and water on the order of 0.0065 and 0.1, respectively. Post-experiment imagery reveals matrix dissolution at low temperatures, and subsequent filling-in of flow passages at elevated temperature. Geochemical calculations indicate that reservoir fluids subjected to a thermal gradient may exsolve and precipitate up to 200 cm3 CO2 and 1.5 cm3 dolomite per kg of water, respectively, resulting in substantial porosity and permeability redistribution.

Kong, X.-Z., and M.O. Saar, Numerical study of the effects of permeability heterogeneity on density-driven convective mixing during CO2 dissolution storage, Int. J. Greenhouse Gas Control, 19, pp. 160-173, 2013. [Download] [View Abstract]Permanence and security of carbon dioxide (CO2) in geologic formations requires dissolution of CO2 into brine, which slightly increases the brine density. Previous studies have shown that this small increase in brine density induces convective currents, which greatly enhances the mixing efficiency and thus CO2 storage capacity and rate in the brine. Density-driven convection, in turn, is known to be largely dominated by permeability heterogeneity. This study explores the relationship between the process of density-driven convection and the permeability heterogeneity of an aquifer during CO2 dissolution storage, using high-resolution numerical simulations. While the porosity is kept constant, the heterogeneity of the aquifer is introduced through a spatially varying permeability field, characterized by the Dykstra-Parsons coefficient and the correlation length. Depending on the concentration profile of dissolved CO2, we classify the convective finger patterns as dispersive, preferential, and unbiased fingering. Our results indicate that the transition between unbiased and both preferential and dispersive fingering is mainly governed by the Dykstra-Parsons coefficient, whereas the transition between preferential and dispersive fingering is controlled by the permeability correlation length. Furthermore, we find that the CO2 dissolution flux at the top boundary will reach a time-independent steady state. Although this flux strongly correlates with permeability distribution, it generally increases with the permeability heterogeneity when the correlation length is less than the system size.

Kong, X.-Z., and M.O. Saar, DBCreate: A SUPCRT92-based program for producing EQ3/6, TOUGHREACT, and GWB thermodynamic databases at user-defined T and P, Computers and Geosciences, 51, pp. 415-417, 2013. [Download] [View Abstract]SUPCRT92 is a widely used software package for calculating the standard thermodynamic properties of minerals, gases, aqueous species, and reactions. However, it is labor-intensive and error-prone to use it directly to produce databases for geochemical modeling programs such as EQ3/6, the Geochemist's Workbench, and TOUGHREACT. DBCreate is a SUPCRT92-based software program written in FORTRAN90/95 and was developed in order to produce the required databases for these programs in a rapid and convenient way. This paper describes the overall structure of the program and provides detailed usage instructions.

Walsh, S.D.C., and M.O. Saar, Developing extensible lattice-Boltzmann simulators for general-purpose graphics-processing units, Communications in Computational Physics, 13/3, pp. 867-879, 2013. [Download] [View Abstract]Lattice-Boltzmann methods are versatile numerical modeling techniques capable of reproducing a wide variety of fluid-mechanical behavior. These methods are well suited to parallel implementation, particularly on the single-instruction multiple data (SIMD) parallel processing environments found in computer graphics processing units (GPUs). Although recent programming tools dramatically improve the ease with which GPUbased applications can be written, the programming environment still lacks the flexibility available to more traditional CPU programs. In particular, it may be difficult to develop modular and extensible programs that require variable on-device functionality with current GPU architectures. This paper describes a process of automatic code generation that overcomes these difficulties for lattice-Boltzmann simulations. It details the development of GPU-based modules for an extensible lattice-Boltzmann simulation package – LBHydra. The performance of the automatically generated code is compared to equivalent purposewritten codes for both single-phase,multiphase, andmulticomponent flows. The flexibility of the new method is demonstrated by simulating a rising, dissolving droplet moving through a porous medium with user generated lattice-Boltzmann models and subroutines.

Gottardi, R., P.-H. Kao, M.O. Saar, and Ch. Teyssier, Effects of permeability fields on fluid, heat, and oxygen isotope transport in extensional detachment systems, Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 14/5, pp. 1493-1522, 2013. [Download] [View Abstract][1] Field studies of Cordilleran metamorphic core complexes indicate that meteoric fluids permeated the upper crust down to the detachment shear zone and interacted with highly deformed and recrystallized (mylonitic) rocks. The presence of fluids in the brittle/ductile transition zone is recorded in the oxygen and hydrogen stable isotope compositions of the mylonites and may play an important role in the thermomechanical evolution of the detachment shear zone. Geochemical data show that fluid flow in the brittle upper crust is primarily controlled by the large-scale fault-zone architecture. We conduct continuum-scale (i.e., large-scale, partial bounce-back) lattice-Boltzman fluid, heat, and oxygen isotope transport simulations of an idealized cross section of a metamorphic core complex. The simulations investigate the effects of crust and fault permeability fields as well as buoyancy-driven flow on two-way coupled fluid and heat transfer and resultant exchange of oxygen isotopes between meteoric fluid and rock. Results show that fluid migration to middle to lower crustal levels is fault controlled and depends primarily on the permeability contrast between the fault zone and the crustal rocks. High fault/crust permeability ratios lead to channelized flow in the fault and shear zones, while lower ratios allow leakage of the fluids from the fault into the crust. Buoyancy affects mainly flow patterns (more upward directed) and, to a lesser extent, temperature distributions (disturbance of the geothermal field by ~25°C). Channelized fluid flow in the shear zone leads to strong vertical and horizontal thermal gradients, comparable to field observations. The oxygen isotope results show δ18O depletion concentrated along the fault and shear zones, similar to field data.

Randolph, J.B., M.O. Saar, and J.M. Bielicki, Geothermal energy production at geologic CO2 sequestration sites: Impact of thermal drawdown on reservoir pressure, Energy Procedia, 37, pp. 6625-6635, 2013. [Download] [View Abstract]Recent geotechnical research shows that geothermal heat can be efficiently mined by circulating carbon dioxide through naturally permeable rock formations -- a method called CO2 Plume Geothermal -- the same geologic reservoirs that are suitable for deep saline aquifer CO2 sequestration or enhanced oil recovery. This paper describes the effect of thermal drawdown on reservoir pressure buildup during sequestration operations, revealing that geothermal heat mining can decrease overpressurization by 10% or more.

Luhmann, A.J., X.-Z. Kong, B.M. Tutolo, K. Ding, M.O. Saar, and W.E. Seyfried Jr., Permeability reduction produced by grain reorganization and accumulation of exsolved CO2 during geologic carbon sequestration: A new CO2 trapping mechanism, Environmental Science and Technlogy, 47/1, pp. 242-251, 2013. [Download] [View Abstract]Carbon sequestration experiments were conducted on uncemented sediment and lithified rock from the Eau Claire Formation, which consisted primarily of K-feldspar and quartz. Cores were heated to accentuate reactivity between fluid and mineral grains and to force CO2 exsolution. Measured permeability of one sediment core ultimately reduced by 4 orders of magnitude as it was incrementally heated from 21 to 150 °C. Water-rock interaction produced some alteration, yielding sub-?m clay precipitation on K-feldspar grains in the core’s upstream end. Experimental results also revealed abundant newly formed pore space in regions of the core, and in some cases pores that were several times larger than the average grain size of the sediment. These large pores likely formed from elevated localized pressure caused by rapid CO2 exsolution within the core and/or an accumulating CO2 phase capable of pushing out surrounding sediment. CO2 filled the pores and blocked flow pathways. Comparison with a similar experiment using a solid arkose core indicates that CO2 accumulation and grain reorganization mainly contributed to permeability reduction during the heated sediment core experiment. This suggests that CO2 injection into sediments may store more CO2 and cause additional permeability reduction than is possible in lithified rock due to grain reorganization.

Alexander, S.C., and M.O. Saar, Improved characterization of small u for Jacob pumping test analysis methods, Ground Water, 50/2, pp. 256-265, 2012. [Download] [View Abstract]Numerous refinements have been proposed to traditional pumping test analyses, yet many hydrogeologists continue to use the Jacob method due to its simplicity. Recent research favors hydraulic tomography and inverse numerical modeling of pumping test data. However, at sites with few wells, or relatively short screens, the data requirements of these methods may be impractical within physical and fiscal constraints. Alternatively, an improved understanding of the assumptions and limitations of Theis and, due to their widespread usage, Jacob analyses, leads to improved interpretations in data-poor environments. A fundamental requirement of Jacob is a “small” value of u = f(r2/t), with radial distance, r, and pumping time, t. However, selection of a too stringent (i.e., too low) maximum permissible u-value, umax, results in rejection of usable data from wells beyond a maximum radius, rmax. Conversely, data from small radii, less than rmin, where turbulent- and vertical-flow components arise, can result in acceptance of inappropriate data. Usage of drawdown data from wells too close to the pumping well, and exclusion of data from wells deemed too far, can cause unrealistic aquifer transmissivity, permeability, and storativity determinations. Here, data from an extensive well field in a glacial-outwash aquifer in north-central Minnesota, USA, are used to develop a new estimate for umax. Traditionally quoted values for umax range from 0.01 to 0.05. Our proposed value for Jacob distance-drawdown analyses is significantly higher with umax up to 0.2, resulting in larger allowable rmax-values and a higher likelihood of inclusion of additional wells in such pumping test analyses.

Covington, M.D., A.J. Luhmann, C. Wicks, and M.O. Saar, Process length scales and longitudinal damping in karst conduits, Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface, 117, F01025, 2012. [Download] [View Abstract][1] Simple mathematical models often allow an intuitive grasp of the function of physical systems. We develop a mathematical framework to investigate reactive or dissipative transport processes within karst conduits. Specifically, we note that for processes that occur within a characteristic timescale, advection along the conduit produces a characteristic process length scale. We calculate characteristic length scales for the propagation of thermal and electrical conductivity signals along karst conduits. These process lengths provide a quantitative connection between karst conduit geometry and the signals observed at a karst spring. We show that water input from the porous/fractured matrix is also characterized by a length scale and derive an approximation that accounts for the influence of matrix flow on the transmission of signals through the aquifer. The single conduit model is then extended to account for conduits with changing geometries and conduit flow networks, demonstrating how these concepts can be applied in more realistic conduit geometries. We introduce a recharge density function, ϕR, which determines the capability of an aquifer to damp a given signal, and cast previous explanations of spring variability within this framework. Process lengths are a general feature of karst conduits and surface streams, and we conclude with a discussion of other potential applications of this conceptual and mathematical framework.

Covington, M., A.F. Banwell, J. Gulley, and M.O. Saar, Quantifying the effects of glacier conduit geometry and recharge on proglacial hydrograph form, Journal of Hydrology, 414-415, pp. 59-71, 2012. [Download] [View Abstract]The configuration of glacier hydrological systems is often inferred from proxy data, such as hydrographs, that are collected in proglacial streams. Seasonal changes in the peakedness of hydrographs are thought to reflect changes in the configuration of the subglacial drainage system. However, the amount of information that proglacial hydrographs contain about drainage system configurations depends critically on the degree to which the drainage systems modify recharge hydrographs. If the drainage system does not modify recharge hydrographs, then proglacial hydrographs primarily reflect the recharge conditions produced by supraglacial inputs. Here, we develop a theoretical framework to determine the circumstances under which glacier drainage systems can modify recharge hydrographs and the circumstances under which recharge pulses pass through glaciers unchanged. We address the capability of single conduits, simple arborescent conduit networks, and linked cavity systems to modify diurnal recharge pulses. Simulations of discharge through large sets of such systems demonstrate that, unless large reservoirs or significant constrictions are present, the discharge hydrographs of simple glacial conduit systems are nearly identical to their recharge hydrographs. Conduit systems tend not to modify hydrographs because the changes in storage within englacial and subglacial conduit networks on short time scales are typically small compared to their ability to transmit water. This finding suggests that proglacial hydrographs reflect a variety of factors, including surface melt rate, surface water transfer, and subglacial water transfer. In many cases the influence of suglacial processes may be relatively minor. As a result, the evolution of proglacial hydrographs cannot be used unambiguously to infer changes in the structure or efficiency of englacial or subglacial hydrological systems, without accurate knowledge of the nature of the recharge hydrograph driving the flow.

Saar, M.O., Review: Geothermal heat as a tracer of large-scale groundwater flow and as a means to determine permeability fields, special theme issue on Environmental Tracers and Groundwater Flow, editor-invited peer-reviewed contribution, Hydrogeology Journal, 19, pp. 31-52, 2011. [Download] [View Abstract]A review of coupled groundwater and heat transfer theory is followed by an introduction to geothermal measurement techniques. Thereafter, temperature-depth profiles (geotherms) and heat discharge at springs to infer hydraulic parameters and processes are discussed. Several studies included in this review state that minimum permeabilities of approximately 5 × 10−17 < kmin <10−15 m2 are required to observe advective heat transfer and resultant geotherm perturbations. Permeabilities below kmin tend to cause heat-conduction-dominated systems, precluding inversion of temperature fields for groundwater flow patterns and constraint of permeabilities other than being

Randolph, J.B., and M.O. Saar, Coupling carbon dioxide sequestration with geothermal energy capture in naturally permeable, porous geologic formations: Implications for CO2 sequestration, Energy Procedia, 4, pp. 2206-2213, 2011. [Download] [View Abstract]Carbon dioxide (CO2) sequestration in deep saline aquifers and exhausted oil and natural gas fields has been widely considered as a means for reducing CO2 emissions to the atmosphere as a counter-measure to global warming. However, rather than treating CO2 merely as a waste fluid in need of permanent disposal, we propose that it could also be used as a working fluid in geothermal energy capture, as its thermodynamic and fluid mechanical properties suggest it transfers geothermal heat more efficiently than water. Energy production and sales in conjunction with sequestration would improve the economic viability of CO2 sequestration, a critical challenge for large-scale implementation of the technology. In addition, using CO2 as the working fluid in geothermal power systems may permit utilization of lower temperature geologic formations than those that are currently deemed economically viable, leading to more widespread utilization of geothermal energy. Here, we present the results of early-stage calculations demonstrating the geothermal energy capture potential of CO2-based geothermal systems and implications of such energy capture for the economic viability of geologic CO2 sequestration.

Randolph, J.B., and M.O. Saar, Combining geothermal energy capture with geologic carbon dioxide sequestration, Geophysical Research Letters, 38, L10401, 2011. [Download] [View Abstract][1] Geothermal energy offers clean, renewable, reliable electric power with no need for grid-scale energy storage, yet its use has been constrained to the few locations worldwide with naturally high geothermal heat resources and groundwater availability. We present a novel approach with the potential to permit expansion of geothermal energy utilization: heat extraction from naturally porous, permeable formations with CO2 as the injected subsurface working fluid. Fluid-mechanical simulations reveal that the significantly higher mobility of CO2, compared to water, at the temperature/pressure conditions of interest makes CO2 an attractive heat exchange fluid. We show numerically that, compared to conventional water-based and engineered geothermal systems, the proposed approach provides up to factors of 2.9 and 5.0, respectively, higher geothermal heat energy extraction rates. Consequently, more regions worldwide could be economically used for geothermal electricity production. Furthermore, as the injected CO2 is eventually geologically sequestered, such power plants would have negative carbon footprints.

Randolph, J.B., and M.O. Saar, Impact of reservoir permeability on the choice of subsurface geothermal heat exchange fluid: CO2 versus water and native brine, Geothermal Resources Council (GRC) Transactions, 35, pp. 521-526, 2011. [View Abstract]Abstract Geothermal systems utilizing carbon dioxide (CO 2) as the subsurface heat exchange fluid in naturally porous, permeable geologic formations have been shown to provide improved geothermal heat energy extraction, even at low resource temperatures. Such systems, termed CO 2 Plume Geothermal (CPG) systems, have the potential to permit expansion of geothermal energy utilization while supporting rapid implementation through the use of existing technologies. Here, we explore CPG heat extraction as a function of reservoir permeability and in comparison to water and brine geothermal heat extraction. We show that for reservoir permeabilities below 2 x 10 -14 m 2 , CO 2 -based geothermal provides better electric power production efficiency than both water-and brine-based systems. Impact of reservoir permeability on the choice of subsurface geothermal heat exchange fluid: CO2 versus water and native brine (PDF Download Available). Available from: [accessed Jun 7, 2017].

Covington, M.D., A.J. Luhmann, F. Gabrovsek, M.O. Saar, I. Willis, and C.M. Wicks, Mechanisms of heat exchange between water and rock in karst conduits, Water Resources Research, 47, W10514/10, 2011. [Download] [View Abstract][1] Previous studies, motivated by understanding water quality, have explored the mechanisms for heat transport and heat exchange in surface streams. In karst aquifers, temperature signals play an additional important role since they carry information about internal aquifer structures. Models for heat transport in karst conduits have previously been developed; however, these models make different, sometimes contradictory, assumptions. Additionally, previous models of heat transport in karst conduits have not been validated using field data from conduits with known geometries. Here we use analytical solutions of heat transfer to examine the relative importance of heat exchange mechanisms and the validity of the assumptions made by previous models. The relative importance of convection, conduction, and radiation is a function of time. Using a characteristic timescale, we show that models neglecting rock conduction produce spurious results in realistic cases. In contrast to the behavior of surface streams, where conduction is often negligible, conduction through the rock surrounding a conduit determines heat flux at timescales of weeks and longer. In open channel conduits, radiative heat flux can be significant. In contrast, convective heat exchange through the conduit air is often negligible. Using the rules derived from our analytical analysis, we develop a numerical model for heat transport in a karst conduit. Our model compares favorably to thermal responses observed in two different karst settings: a cave stream fed via autogenic recharge during a snowmelt event, and an allogenically recharged cave stream that experiences continuous temperature fluctuations on many timescales.

Davis, M.A., S.D.C. Walsh, and M.O. Saar, Statistically reconstructing continuous isotropic and anisotropic two-phase media while preserving macroscopic material properties, Physical Review E, 83, 026706, 2011. [Download] [View Abstract]We propose a method to generate statistically similar reconstructions of two-phase media. As with previous work, we initially characterize the microstructure of the material using two-point correlation functions (a subset of spatial correlation functions) and then generate numerical reconstructions using a simulated annealing method that preserves the geometric relationships of the material’s phase of interest. However, in contrast to earlier contributions that consider reconstructions composed of discrete arrays of pixels or voxels alone, we generate reconstructions based on assemblies of continuous, three-dimensional, interpenetrating objects. The result is a continuum description of the material microstructure (as opposed to a discretized or pixelated description), capable of efficiently representing large disparities in scale. Different reconstruction methods are considered based on distinct combinations of two-point correlation functions of varying degrees of complexity. The quality of the reconstruction methods are evaluated by comparing the total pore fraction, specific surface area of the percolating cluster, pore fraction of the percolating cluster, tortuosity, and permeability of the reconstructions to those of a set of reference assemblies. Elsewhere it has been proposed that two-phase media could be statistically reproduced with only two spatial correlation functions: the two-point probability function (the probability that two points lie within the same phase) and the lineal path function (the probability that a line between two points lies entirely within the same phase). We find that methods employing the two-point probability function and lineal path function are improved if the percolating cluster volume is also considered in the reconstruction. However, to reproduce more complicated geometric assemblies, we find it necessary to employ the two-point probability, two-point cluster, and lineal path function in addition to the percolating cluster volume to produce a generally accurate statistical reconstruction.

Randolph, J.B., and M.O. Saar, Coupling geothermal energy capture with carbon dioxide sequestration in naturally permeable, porous geologic formations: A comparison with enhanced geothermal systems, Geothermal Resources Council (GRC) Transactions, 34, pp. 433-438, 2010. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]Geothermal energy offers clean, consistent, reliable electric power with no need for grid-scale energy storage, unlike wind and solar renewable power alternatives. However, geothermal energy is often underrepresented in renewable energy discussions and has considerable room for growth. New technology and methods will be critical for future investment, and rapid implementation of new techniques will be critical in ensuring geothermal energy plays a significant role in the future energy landscape world - wide. Here, we discuss a novel approach with the potential to permit expansion of geothermal energy utilization while supporting rapid implementation through the use of exist - ing technologies: geothermal heat use in naturally porous, permeable geologic formations with carbon dioxide as the working heat exchange fluid.

Dasgupta, S., M.O. Saar, R.L. Edwards, C.-C. Shen, H. Cheng, and C.E. Alexander Jr., Three thousand years of extreme rainfall events recorded in stalagmites from Spring Valley Caverns, Minnesota, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 300, pp. 46-54, 2010. [Download] [View Abstract]Annual layer analysis in two stalagmites collected from Spring Valley Caverns, southeastern Minnesota, reveals hydrological response of the cave to extreme rainfall events in the Midwest, USA. Cave-flooding events are identified within the two samples by the presence of detrital layers composed of clay sized particles. Comparison with instrumental records of precipitation demonstrates a strong correlation between these cave-flood events and extreme rainfall observed in the Upper Mississippi Valley. A simple model is developed to assess the nature of rainfall capable of flooding the cave. The model is first calibrated to the last 50-yr (1950–1998 A.D.) instrumental record of daily precipitation data for the town of Spring Valley and verified with the first 50 yr of record from 1900 to 1949 A.D. Frequency analysis shows that these extreme flood events have increased from the last half of the nineteenth century. Comparison with other paleohydrological records shows increased occurrence of extreme rain events during periods of higher moisture availability. Our study implies that increased moisture availability in the Midwestern region, due to rise in temperature from global warming could lead to an increase in the occurrence of extreme rainfall events.

Walsh, S.D.C., and M.O. Saar, Macroscale lattice-Boltzmann methods for low-Peclet-number solute and heat transport in heterogeneous porous media, Water Resources Research, 46, W07517, 2010. [Download] [View Abstract][1] This paper introduces new methods for simulating subsurface solute and heat transport in heterogeneous media using large-scale lattice-Boltzmann models capable of representing both macroscopically averaged porous media and open channel flows. Previous examples of macroscopically averaged lattice-Boltzmann models for solute and heat transport are only applicable to homogeneous media. Here, we extend these models to properly account for heterogeneous pore-space distributions. For simplicity, in the majority of this paper we assume low Peclet number flows with an isotropic dispersion tensor. Nevertheless, this approach may also be extended to include anisotropic-dispersion by using multiple relaxation time lattice-Boltzmann methods. We describe two methods for introducing heterogeneity into macroscopically averaged lattice-Boltzmann models. The first model delivers the desired behavior by introducing an additional time-derivative term to the collision rule; the second model by separately weighting symmetric and anti-symmetric components of the fluid packet densities. Chapman-Enskog expansions are conducted on the governing equations of the two models, demonstrating that the correct constitutive behavior is obtained in both cases. In addition, methods for improving model stability at low porosities are also discussed: (1) an implicit formulation of the model; and (2) a local transformation that normalizes the lattice-Boltzmann model by the local porosity. The model performances are evaluated through comparisons of simulated results with analytical solutions for one- and two-dimensional flows, and by comparing model predictions to finite element simulations of advection isotropic-dispersion in heterogeneous porous media. We conclude by presenting an example application, demonstrating the ability of the new models to couple with simulations of reactive flow and changing flow geometry: a simulation of groundwater flow through a carbonate system.

Walsh, S.D.C., and M.O. Saar, Interpolated lattice-Boltzmann boundary conditions for surface reaction kinetics, Physical Review E, 82, 066703, 2010. [Download] [View Abstract]This paper describes a method for implementing surface reaction kinetics in lattice Boltzmann simulations. The interpolated boundary conditions are capable of simulating surface reactions and dissolution at both stationary and moving solid-fluid and fluid-fluid interfaces. Results obtained with the boundary conditions are compared to analytical solutions for first-order and constant-flux kinetic surface reactions in a one-dimensional half space, as well as to the analytical solution for evaporation from the surface of a cylinder. Excellent agreement between analytical and simulated results is obtained for a wide range of diffusivities, lattice velocities, and surface reaction rates. The boundary model’s ability to represent dissolution in binary fluid mixtures is demonstrated by modeling diffusion from a rising bubble and dissolution of a droplet near a flat plate.

Myre, J., S.D.C. Walsh, D.J. Lilja, and M.O. Saar, Performance analysis of single-phase multiphase, and multicomponent lattice-Boltzmann fluid flow simulations on GPU clusters, Concurrency and Computation: Practice and Experience, 23, pp. 332-350, 2010. [Download] [View Abstract]Abstract The lattice-Boltzmann method is well suited for implementation in single-instruction multiple-data (SIMD) environments provided by general purpose graphics processing units (GPGPUs). This paper discusses the integration of these GPGPU programs with OpenMP to create lattice-Boltzmann applications for multi-GPU clusters. In addition to the standard single-phase single-component lattice-Boltzmann method, the performances of more complex multiphase, multicomponent models are also examined. The contributions of various GPU lattice-Boltzmann parameters to the performance are examined and quantified with a statistical model of the performance using Analysis of Variance (ANOVA). By examining single- and multi-GPU lattice-Boltzmann simulations with ANOVA, we show that all the lattice-Boltzmann simulations primarily depend on effects corresponding to simulation geometry and decomposition, and not on the architectural aspects of GPU. Additionally, using ANOVA we confirm that the metrics of Efficiency and Utilization are not suitable for memory-bandwidth-dependent codes. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Covington, M., C.M. Wicks, and M.O. Saar, A dimensionless number describing the effects of recharge and geometry on discharge from simple karst aquifers, Water Resources Research, 45, W11410, 2009. [Download] [View Abstract][1] The responses of karstic aquifers to storms are often used to obtain information about aquifer geometry. In general, spring hydrographs are a function of both system geometry and recharge. However, the majority of prior work on storm pulses through karst has not studied the effect of recharge on spring hydrographs. To examine the relative importance of geometry and recharge, we break karstic aquifers into elements according to the manner of their response to transient flow and demonstrate that each element has a characteristic response timescale. These fundamental elements are full pipes, open channels, reservoir/constrictions, and the porous matrix. Taking the ratio of the element timescale with the recharge timescale produces a dimensionless number, γ, that is used to characterize aquifer response to a storm event. Using sets of simulations run with randomly selected element parameters, we demonstrate that each element type has a critical value of γ below which the shape of the spring hydrograph is dominated by the shape of the recharge hydrograph and above which the spring hydrograph is significantly modified by the system geometry. This allows separation of particular element/storm pairs into recharge-dominated and geometry-dominated regimes. While most real karstic aquifers are complex combinations of these elements, we draw examples from several karst systems that can be represented by single elements. These examples demonstrate that for real karstic aquifers full pipe and open channel elements are generally in the recharge-dominated regime, whereas reservoir/constriction elements can fall in either the recharge- or geometry-dominated regimes.

Walsh, S.D.C., H. Burwinkle, and M.O. Saar, A new partial-bounceback lattice-Boltzmann method for fluid flow through heterogeneous media, Computers and Geosciences, 35/6, pp. 1186-1193, 2009. [Download] [View Abstract]Partial-bounceback lattice-Boltzmann methods employ a probabilistic meso-scale model that varies individual lattice node properties to reflect a material's local permeability. These types of models have great potential in a range of geofluid, and other science and engineering, simulations of complex fluid flow. However, there are several different possible approaches for formulating partial-bounceback algorithms. This paper introduces a new partial-bounceback algorithm and compares it to two pre-existing partial-bounceback models. Unlike the two other partial-bounceback methods, the new approach conserves mass in heterogeneous media and shows improvements in simulating buoyancy-driven flow as well as diffusive processes. Further, the new model is better-suited for parallel processing implementations, resulting in faster simulations. Finally, we derive an analytical expression for calculating the permeability in all three models; a critical component for accurately matching simulation parameters to physical permeabilities.

Walsh, S.D.C., M.O. Saar, P. Bailey, and D.J. Lilja, Accelerating geoscience and engineering system simulations on graphics hardware, Computers and Geosciences, 35/12, pp. 2353-2364, 2009. [Download] [View Abstract]Many complex natural systems studied in the geosciences are characterized by simple local-scale interactions that result in complex emergent behavior. Simulations of these systems, often implemented in parallel using standard central processing unit (CPU) clusters, may be better suited to parallel processing environments with large numbers of simple processors. Such an environment is found in graphics processing units (GPUs) on graphics cards. This paper discusses GPU implementations of three example applications from computational fluid dynamics, seismic wave propagation, and rock magnetism. These candidate applications involve important numerical modeling techniques, widely employed in physical system simulations, that are themselves examples of distinct computing classes identified as fundamental to scientific and engineering computing. The presented numerical methods (and respective computing classes they belong to) are: (1) a lattice-Boltzmann code for geofluid dynamics (structured grid class); (2) a spectral-finite-element code for seismic wave propagation simulations (sparse linear algebra class); and (3) a least-squares minimization code for interpreting magnetic force microscopy data (dense linear algebra class). Significant performance increases (between 10×× and 30×× in most cases) are seen in all three applications, demonstrating the power of GPU implementations for these types of simulations and, more generally, their associated computing classes.

Walsh, S.D.C., and M.O. Saar, Numerical Models of Stiffness and Yield Stress Growth in Crystal-Melt Suspensions, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 267/1-2, pp. 32-44, 2008. [Download] [View Abstract]Magmas and other suspensions that develop sample-spanning crystal networks undergo a change in rheology from Newtonian to Bingham flow due to the onset of a finite yield stress in the crystal network. Although percolation theory provides a prediction of the crystal volume fraction at which this transition occurs, the manner in which yield stress grows with increasing crystal number densities is less-well understood. This paper discusses a simple numerical approach that models yield stress in magmatic crystalline assemblies. In this approach, the crystal network is represented by an assembly of soft-core interpenetrating cuboid (rectangular prism) particles, whose mechanical properties are simulated in a network model. The model is used to investigate the influence of particle shape and alignment anisotropy on the yield stress of crystal networks with particle volume fractions above the percolation threshold. In keeping with previous studies, the simulation predicts a local minimum in the onset of yield stress for assemblies of cubic particles, compared to those with more anisotropic shapes. The new model also predicts the growth of yield stress above (and close to) the percolation threshold. The predictions of the model are compared with results obtained from a critical path analysis. Good agreement is found between a characteristic stiffness obtained from critical path analysis, the growth in assembly stiffness predicted by the model (both of which have approximately cubic power-law exponents) and, to a lesser extent, the growth in yield stress (with a power-law exponent of 3.5). The effect of preferred particle alignment on yield stress is also investigated and found to obey similar power-law behavior.

Walsh, S.D.C., and M.O. Saar, Magma yield stress and permeability: Insights from multiphase percolation theory, Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 177, pp. 1011-1019, 2008. [Download] [View Abstract]Magmas often contain multiple interacting phases of embedded solid and gas inclusions. Multiphase percolation theory provides a means of modeling assemblies of these different classes of magmatic inclusions in a simple, yet powerful way. Like its single phase counterpart, multiphase percolation theory describes the connectivity of discrete inclusion assemblies as a function of phase topology. In addition, multiphase percolation employs basic laws to distinguish separate classes of objects and is characterized by its dependency on the order in which the different phases appear. This paper examines two applications of multiphase percolation theory: the fi rst considers how the presence of bubble inclusions in fl uences yield stress onset and growth in a magma's crystal network; the second examines the effect of bi-modal bubble-size distributions on magma permeability. We fi nd that the presence of bubbles induces crystal clustering, thereby 1) reducing the percolation threshold, or critical crystal volume fraction, φ c , at which the crystals form a space-spanning network providing a minimum yield stress, and 2) resulting in a larger yield stress for a given crystal volume fraction above φ c . This increase in the yield stress of the crystal network may also occur when crystal clusters areformed due toprocesses otherthanbubble formation, such as heterogeneouscrystallization, synneusis, and heterogeneity due to deformation or fl ow. Further, we fi nd that bimodal bubble size distributions can signi fi cantly affect the permeability of the system beyond the percolation threshold. This study thus demonstrates that larger-scale structures and topologies, as well as the order in which different phases appear, can have signi fi cant effects on macroscopic properties in multiphase materials.

Edwards, R.A., B. Rodriguez-Brito, L. Wegley, M. Haynes, M. Breitbart, D.M. Petersen, M.O. Saar, S.C. Alexander, E.C. Alexander Jr., and F. Rohwer, Using pyrosequencing to shed light on deep mine microbial ecology, BMC Genomics, 2006. [Download] [View Abstract] Background Contrasting biological, chemical and hydrogeological analyses highlights the fundamental processes that shape different environments. Generating and interpreting the biological sequence data was a costly and time-consuming process in defining an environment. Here we have used pyrosequencing, a rapid and relatively inexpensive sequencing technology, to generate environmental genome sequences from two sites in the Soudan Mine, Minnesota, USA. These sites were adjacent to each other, but differed significantly in chemistry and hydrogeology. Results Comparisons of the microbes and the subsystems identified in the two samples highlighted important differences in metabolic potential in each environment. The microbes were performing distinct biochemistry on the available substrates, and subsystems such as carbon utilization, iron acquisition mechanisms, nitrogen assimilation, and respiratory pathways separated the two communities. Although the correlation between much of the microbial metabolism occurring and the geochemical conditions from which the samples were isolated could be explained, the reason for the presence of many pathways in these environments remains to be determined. Despite being physically close, these two communities were markedly different from each other. In addition, the communities were also completely different from other microbial communities sequenced to date. Conclusion We anticipate that pyrosequencing will be widely used to sequence environmental samples because of the speed, cost, and technical advantages. Furthermore, subsystem comparisons rapidly identify the important metabolisms employed by the microbes in different environments.

Saar, M.O., M.C. Castro, C.M. Hall, M. Manga, and T.P. Rose, Quantifying magmatic, crustal, and atmospheric helium contributions to volcanic aquifers using all stable noble gases: Implications for magmatism and groundwater flow, Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems, 6/3, 2005. [Download] [View Abstract][1] We measure all stable noble gases (He, Ne, Ar, Kr, Xe) in spring waters in the Oregon Cascades volcanic arc and in eastern Oregon, USA. We show that in order to estimate magmatic helium (He) contributions it is critical to simultaneously consider He isotopic ratios, He concentrations, and mixing of He components. Our component mixing analysis requires consideration of all measured noble gases but no other elements and is particularly insightful when strong dilution by air-saturated water has occurred. In addition, this approach can allow distinction between crustal and magmatic He components and facilitates their identification in deep groundwaters that have been diluted by near-surface water. Using this approach, we show that some cold springs on the eastern flanks of the Oregon Cascades exhibit He isotopic ratios that indicate significant magmatic He contributions comparable to those observed in thermal springs on the western flanks. Furthermore, while these magmatic He contributions are largest in deep groundwaters near the Cascades crest, greater magmatic excess He fractions than may be inferred from He isotopic ratios alone are present in all (deep) groundwaters including those at larger distances (>70 km) from the volcanic arc. We also suggest that excess He and heat discharge without dilution by air-saturated water may be restricted to spring discharge along faults.

Christiansen, L.B., S. Hurwitz, M.O. Saar, S.E. Ingebritsen, and P.A. Hsieh, Seasonal seismicity at western United States volcanic centers, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 240, pp. 307-321, 2005. [Download] [View Abstract]We examine 20-yr data sets of seismic activity from 10 volcanic areas in the western United States for annual periodic signals (seasonality), focusing on large calderas (Long Valley caldera and Yellowstone) and stratovolcanoes (Cascade Range). We apply several statistical methods to test for seasonality in the seismic catalogs. In 4 of the 10 regions, statistically significant seasonal modulation of seismicity (> 90% probability) occurs, such that there is an increase in the monthly seismicity during a given portion of the year. In five regions, seasonal seismicity is significant in the upper 3 km of the crust. Peak seismicity occurs in the summer and autumn in Mt. St. Helens, Hebgen Lake/Madison Valley, Yellowstone Lake, and Mammoth Mountain. In the eastern south moat of Long Valley caldera (LVC) peak seismicity occurs in the winter and spring. We quantify the possible external forcing mechanisms that could modulate seasonal seismicity. Both snow unloading and groundwater recharge can generate large stress changes of > 5 kPa at seismogenic depths and may thus contribute to seasonality.

Jellinek, M.A., M. Manga, and M.O. Saar, Did melting glaciers cause volcanic eruptions in eastern California? Probing the mechanics of dike formation, Journal of Geophysical Research, 109/B9, B09206, 2004. [Download] [View Abstract][1] A comparison of time series of basaltic and silicic eruptions in eastern California over the last 400 kyr with the contemporaneous global record of glaciation suggests that this volcanism is influenced by the growth and retreat of glaciers occurring over periods of about 40 kyr. Statistically significant cross correlations between changes in eruption frequency and the first derivative of the glacial time series imply that the temporal pattern of volcanism is influenced by the rate of change in ice volume. Moreover, calculated time lags for the effects of glacial unloading on silicic and basaltic volcanism are distinct and are 3.2 ± 4.2 kyr and 11.2 ± 2.3 kyr, respectively. A theoretical model is developed to investigate whether the increases in eruption frequency following periods of glacial unloading are a response ultimately controlled by the dynamics of dike formation. Applying results from the time series analysis leads, in turn, to estimates for the critical magma chamber overpressure required for eruption as well as constraints on the effective viscosity of the wall rocks governing dike propagation.

Saar, M.O., and M. Manga, Depth dependence of permeability in the Oregon Cascades inferred from hydrogeologic, thermal, seismic, and magmatic modeling constraints, Journal of Geophysical Research, 109/B4, B04204, 2004. [Download] [View Abstract][1] We investigate the decrease in permeability, k, with depth, z, in the Oregon Cascades employing four different methods. Each method provides insight into the average permeability applicable to a different depth scale. Spring discharge models are used to infer shallow (z < 0.1 km) horizontal permeabilities. Coupled heat and groundwater flow simulations provide horizontal and vertical k for z < 1 km. Statistical investigations of the occurrences of earthquakes that are probably triggered by seasonal groundwater recharge yield vertical k for z < 5 km. Finally, considerations of magma intrusion rates and water devolatilization provide estimates of vertical k for z < 15 km. For depths >0.8 km, our results agree with the power law relationship, k = 10−14 m2 (z/1 km)−3.2, suggested by Manning and Ingebritsen [1999] for continental crust in general. However, for shallower depths (typically z ≤ 0.8 km and up to z ≤ 2) we propose an exponential relationship, k = 5 × 10−13 m2 exp (−z/0.25 km), that both fits data better (at least for the Cascades and seemingly for continental crust in general) and allows for a finite near-surface permeability and no singularity at zero depth. In addition, the suggested functions yield a smooth transition at z = 0.8 km, where their permeabilities and their gradients are similar. Permeabilities inferred from the hydroseismicity model at Mount Hood are about one order of magnitude larger than expected from the above power law. However, higher permeabilities in this region may be consistent with advective heat transfer along active faults, causing observed hot springs. Our simulations suggest groundwater recharge rates of 0.5 ≤ uR ≤ 1 m/yr and a mean background heat flow of Hb ≈ 0.080–0.134 W/m2 for the investigated region.

Saar, M.O., and M. Manga, Seismicity induced by seasonal groundwater recharge at Mt. Hood, Oregon, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 214, pp. 605-618, 2003. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]Groundwater recharge at Mt. Hood, Oregon, is dominated by spring snow melt which provides a natural large- amplitude and narrow-width pore-fluid pressure signal. Time delays between this seasonal groundwater recharge and seismicity triggered by groundwater recharge can thus be used to estimate large-scale hydraulic diffusivities and the state of stress in the crust. We approximate seasonal variations in groundwater recharge with discharge in runoff- dominated streams at high elevations. We interpolate the time series ofnumber ofearthquakes, N , seismic moment, M o , and stream discharge, Q , and determine cross-correlation coefficients at equivalent frequency bands between Q and both N and M o . We find statistically significant correlation coefficients at a mean time lag of about 151 days. This time lag and a mean earthquake depth of about 4.5 km are used in the solution to the pressure diffusion equation, under periodic (1 year) boundary conditions, to estimate a hydraulic diffusivity of U W 10 3 1 m 2 /s, a hydraulic conductivity ofabout K h W 10 3 7 m/s, and a permeability ofabout k W 10 3 15 m 2 . Periodic boundary conditions also allow us to determine a critical pore-fluid pressure fraction, P P / P 0 W 0.1, ofthe applied near-surface pore-fluid pressure perturbation, P 0 W 0.1 MPa, that has to be reached at the mean earthquake depth to cause hydroseismicity. The low magnitude of P P W 0.01 MPa is consistent with other studies that propose 0.01 9 P P 9 0.1 MPa and suggests that the state of stress in the crust near Mt. Hood could be near critical for failure. Therefore, we conclude that, while earthquakes occur throughout the year at Mt. Hood, elevated seismicity levels along pre-existing faults south of Mt. Hood during summer months are hydrologically induced by a reduction in effective stress

Saar, M.O., and M. Manga, Continuum percolation for randomly oriented soft-core prisms, Physical Review E, 65/056131, 2002. [Download] [View Abstract]We study continuum percolation of three-dimensional randomly oriented soft-core polyhedra (prisms). The prisms are biaxial or triaxial and range in aspect ratio over six orders of magnitude. Results for prisms are compared with studies for ellipsoids, rods, ellipses, and polygons and differences are explained using the concept of the average excluded volume, ⟨vex⟩. For large-shape anisotropies we find close agreement between prisms and most of the above-mentioned shapes for the critical total average excluded volume, nc⟨vex⟩, where nc is the critical number density of objects at the percolation threshold. In the extreme oblate and prolate limits simulations yield nc⟨vex⟩≈2.3 and nc⟨vex⟩≈1.3, respectively. Cubes exhibit the lowest-shape anisotropy of prisms minimizing the importance of randomness in orientation. As a result, the maximum prism value, nc⟨vex⟩≈2.79, is reached for cubes, a value close to nc⟨vex⟩=2.8 for the most equant shape, a sphere. Similarly, cubes yield a maximum critical object volume fraction of φc=0.22. φc decreases for more prolate and oblate prisms and reaches a linear relationship with respect to aspect ratio for aspect ratios greater than about 50. Curves of φc as a function of aspect ratio for prisms and ellipsoids are offset at low-shape anisotropies but converge in the extreme oblate and prolate limits. The offset appears to be a function of the ratio of the normalized average excluded volume for ellipsoids over that for prisms, R=⟨¯vex⟩e/⟨¯vex⟩p. This ratio is at its minimum of R=0.758 for spheres and cubes, where φc(sphere)=0.2896 may be related to φc(cube)=0.22 by φc(cube)=1−[1−φc(sphere)]R=0.23. With respect to biaxial prisms, triaxial prisms show increased normalized average excluded volumes, ⟨¯vex⟩, due to increased shape anisotropies, resulting in reduced values of φc. We confirm that Bc=nc⟨vex⟩=2Cc applies to prisms, where Bc and Cc are the average number of bonds per object and average number of connections per object, respectively.

Saar, M.O., M. Manga, K.V. Cashman, and S. Fremouw, Numerical models of the onset of yield strength in crystal-melt suspensions, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 187, pp. 367-379, 2001. [Download] [View Abstract]The formation of a continuous crystal network in magmas and lavas can provide finite yield strength, τy, and can thus cause a change from Newtonian to Bingham rheology. The rheology of crystal–melt suspensions affects geological processes, such as ascent of magma through volcanic conduits, flow of lava across the Earth’s surface, melt extraction from crystal mushes under compression, convection in magmatic bodies, and shear wave propagation through partial melting zones. Here, three-dimensional numerical models are used to investigate the onset of ‘static’ yield strength in a zero-shear environment. Crystals are positioned randomly in space and can be approximated as convex polyhedra of any shape, size and orientation. We determine the critical crystal volume fraction, φc, at which a crystal network first forms. The value of φc is a function of object shape and orientation distribution, and decreases with increasing randomness in object orientation and increasing shape anisotropy. For example, while parallel-aligned convex objects yield φc=0.29, randomly oriented cubes exhibit a maximum φc of 0.22. Approximations of plagioclase crystals as randomly oriented elongated and flattened prisms (tablets) with aspect ratios between 1:4:16 and 1:1:2 yield 0.08<φc<0.20, respectively. The dependence of φc on particle orientation implies that the flow regime and resulting particle ordering may affect the onset of yield strength. φc in zero-shear environments is a lower bound for φc. Finally the average total excluded volume is used, within its limitation of being a ‘quasi-invariant’, to develop a scaling relation between τy and φ for suspensions of different particle shapes.

Saar, M.O., and M. Manga, Permeability-porosity relationship in vesicular basalts., Geophysical Research Letters, 26/1, pp. 111-114, 1999. [Download] [View Abstract]The permeability κ and porosity ϕ of vesicular basalts are measured. The relationship between κ and ϕ reflects the formation and emplacement of the basalts and can be related to the crystal and vesicle microstructure obtained by image analysis. Standard theoretical models relating κ and ϕ that work well for granular materials are unsuccessful for vesicular rocks due to the fundamental difference in pore structure. Specifically, κ in vesicular rocks is governed by apertures between bubbles. The difference between calculated and measured κ reflects the small size of these apertures with aperture radii typically O(10) times smaller than the mean bubble radii.

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Hau, K.P., M. Brehme, A. Rangriz Shokri, R. Malakooti, E. Nickel, R.J. Chalaturnyk, and M.O. Saar, Development of an Integrated Reservoir and Production System Modelling (IPSM) Workflow for simulating CO2-Plume Geothermal (CPG) Systems at the Aquistore CCS Site, Proceedings of the 49th Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering Stanford University, 2024. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]Please enter abstract hereA strong reduction in global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is necessary to achieve the climate targets set out in the Paris Agreement. Decarbonisation of theenergy sector, for example, requires baseload renewable energy sources, while decarbonisation of the cement and other heavy industries requires active capture and permanent (geologic) sequestration of CO2 (e.g. carbon, capture, and storage (CCS)). So far, economic constraints prevent the commercial-scale deployment of the CCS technology. Geothermal energy, as one of the renewable energy sources, can provide significant baseload energy supply but is restricted to regions with high (a) geothermal gradients and (b) rock transmissivities. Often, one of these is not given, limiting economic geothermal energy extraction. The usage of supercritical CO2 as a geothermal working fluid by injecting it and circulating it in a closed system from the reservoir to the Earth’s surface to extract the geothermal energy can open possibilities in regions that are otherwise economically disadvantageous for geothermal energy use. Previous studies have shown that the theoretical efficiency of a geothermal system can be doubled to tripled, compared to conventional geothermal systems, due to the significantly lower kinematic viscosity of supercritical CO2, compared to H2O. This concept is commonly known as CO2-Plume Geothermal (CPG). It uses (eventually) permanently sequestered CO2 from a CCS site to a) improve the business case of CCS systems by generating geothermal power (thermal and/or electric) and b) reduce the reservoir temperatureand pressure,which in turn increases theoverall CO2 storage capacity and safety. Inournumerical feasibilitystudy,weinvestigatethesuitabilityoftheactive,commercial-scale, research-orientedAquistoreCCSsitein Canada for a CO2-circulation demonstration test. We apply a pioneering workflow, combining (1) a field history-matched, heterogeneous reservoir model with (2) a full-physics fluid flow simulator, (3) a wellbore and (4) a simplified surface facility model (representing surface energy extraction and CO2 reinjection) in an integrated manner.

Rangel Jurado, N., X-Z. Kong, A. Kottsova, F. Games, M. Brehme, and M.O. Saar, Investigating the chemical reactivity of the Gipskeuper and Muschelkalk formations to wet CO2 injection: A case study towards the first CCS pilot, Swiss Geoscience Meeting, 2023. [View Abstract]Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is expected to play a major role in societal attempts to reduce CO2 emissions and mitigate climate change. In parallel, CO2-based geothermal systems have been proposed as an innovative technology to couple CCS with geothermal energy extraction, therefore, increasing renewable energy production and unlocking industry-scale carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS). The safe implementation and sustainability of both these technologies require a comprehensive understanding of how injected CO2 will interact with formation fluids and rocks in situ, especially under elevated pressure and temperature conditions. Whereas the role that CO2-bearing aqueous solutions play in geological reservoirs has been extensively studied, the chemical behavior of non-aqueous CO2-rich mixtures containing water has been vastly overlooked by academics and practitioners alike. In this study, we address this knowledge gap by conducting core-scale laboratory experiments that investigate the chemical reactivity of CO2-H2O mixtures, on both ends of the mutual solubility spectrum, towards reservoir and caprock lithologies. We conducted batch reactions on rock specimens from the Muschelkalk and Gipskeuper formations in Switzerland, subjecting them to interactions with wet CO2 under reservoir conditions (35 MPa, 150 °C) for approximately 500 hours. A wide range of high-resolution techniques, including scanning electron microscopy (SEM), X-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray computed tomography (XRCT), and stable isotope analysis, were employed to characterize the evolution of petrophysical properties, morphology, and chemical composition of the samples. Furthermore, upon experiment termination, we analyzed fluid effluents using inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES) to gain insights into ion transport processes associated with dissolution reactions caused by both the aqueous and non-aqueous phases. Our results reveal that fluid-mineral interactions involving CO extsubscript{2}-rich supercritical fluids containing water are significantly less severe than those caused by aqueous solutions containing CO extsubscript{2}. Nonetheless, the existence of dissolved ions in the wet CO2 samples is evidence of ion transport processes caused by the gaseous phase that warrants further investigation. The experimental characterization of CO2-H2O mixtures under a wide range of reservoir and operating conditions represents a critical step in ensuring the reliability, long-term security, and technical feasibility of deploying CCS and CO2-based geothermal energy worldwide.

Hau, K.P., F. Games, R. Lathion, and M.O. Saar, Modelling Potential Geological CO2 Storage combined with CO2-Plume Geothermal (CPG) Energy Extraction in Switzerland, International Petroleum Technology Conference 2022, 2022. [Download] [View Abstract]For many CO2-emitting industrial sectors, such as the cement and chemical industry, Carbon, Capture and Storage (CCS) will be necessary to reach any set climate target. CCS on its own is a very cost-intensive technology. Instead of considering CO2 as a waste to be disposed of, we propose to consider CO2 as a resource. The utilisation of CO2 in so-called CO2 Plume Geothermal (CPG) systems generates revenue by extracting geothermal energy, while permanently storing CO2 in the geological subsurface. To the best of our knowledge, this pioneer investigation is the first CCUS simulation feasibility study in Switzerland. Among others, we investigated the concept of injecting and circulating CO2 for geothermal power generation purposes from potential CO2 storage formations (saline reservoirs) in the Western part of the Swiss Molasse Basin (“Muschelkalk” and “Buntsandstein” formation). Old 2D-seismic data indicates a potential anticline structure in proximity of the Ecl pens heat anomaly. Essentially, this conceptual study helps assessing it’s potential CO2 storage capacity range and will be beneficial for future economical assessments. The interpretation of the intersected 2D seismic profiles reveals an apparent anticline structure that was integrated on a geological model with a footprint of 4.35 x 4.05 km2. For studying the dynamic reservoir behaviour during the CO2 circulation, we considered: (1) the petrophysical rock properties uncertainty range, (2) the injection and physics of a two-phase (CO2 and brine) fluid system, including the relative permeability characterisation, fluid model composition, the residual and solubility CO2 trapping, and (3) the thermophysical properties of resident-formation brine and the injected CO2 gas. Our study represents a first-order estimation of the expected CO2 storage capacity range at a possible anticline structure in two potential Triassic reservoir formations in the Western part of the Swiss Molasse Basin. Additionally, we assessed the effect of different well locations on CO2 injection operations. Our currently still-ongoing study will investigate production rates and resulting well flow regimes in a conceptual CO2 production well for geothermal energy production in the future. Nonetheless, our preliminary results indicate that, under ideal conditions, both reservoirs combined can store more than 8 Mt of CO2 over multiple decades of CCUS operation. From our results, we can clearly identify limiting factors on the overall storage capacity, such as for example the reservoir fluid pressure distribution and well operation constraints.

Rangel Jurado, N., S. Kucuk, M. Brehme, R. Lathion, F. Games, and M.O. Saar, Comparative analysis on the techno-economic performance of different geothermal system types for heat generation, European Geothermal Congress, 2022. [View Abstract]Geothermal energy can play a major role in renewable energy transition efforts worldwide by replacing fossil fuels since it provides baseload, firm, and carbon-free energy. Nonetheless, in contrast to its renewable alternatives, which are harnessed on the Earth’s surface, geothermal energy resources exist underground, inherently posing challenges, risks, uncertainties, and opportunities regarding energy exploration and utilization. As a result, multiple concepts to exploit geothermal energy have been proposed over the last century with varying degrees of complexity, technological maturity, and commercial success. This paper presents a first-order comparison of the technoeconomic performance of different types of deep geothermal systems for direct heat production. The system types are Conventional Hydrothermal Systems (CHS), CO2 Plume Geothermal (CPG) systems, and Advanced [or Closed-Loop] Geothermal Systems (AGS and CO2-AGS). In this study, we consider a medium sized, standard geothermal field of intermediate depth (i.e., average continental crust geothermal gradient and petrophysical properties), for which all naturally occurring reservoir conditions remain fixed. Our results show that water-based and open-loop configurations are more favorable in the context of heat production for the reservoir conditions investigated here. However, the value of CO2-based and closed-loop designs is overlooked in direct-use applications. Our work highlights how important the interplay between thermal performance and hydraulic performance is to predict and regulate the techno-economic viability of deep geothermal projects over multiple decades.

Rangel-Jurado, N., S. Kücük, M. Brehme, R. Lathion, F. Games, and M. Saar, Comparative Analysis on the Techno-Economic Performance of Different Types of Deep Geothermal Systems for Heat Production , European Geothermal Congress 2022, 2022.

Hau, K.P., F. Games, R. Lathion, M. Brehme, and M.O. Saar, On the feasibility of producing geothermal energy at an intended CO2 sequestration field site in Switzerland, European Geothermal Congress 2022, 2022. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]The global climate crisis is caused by the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Carbon, Capture, and Storage (CCS) has been identified as a key technology towards reaching a climate-neutral society. So far, however, the widespread, large-scale deployment of CCS has been prevented, among other things, by its uneconomical nature. (Zapantis et al., 2019). To increase the economic efficiency of CCS, the stored CO2 could additionally be used as a circulating fluid for geothermal power production, turning CCS into simultaneous Carbon, Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS). The concept of CO2-Plume Geothermal (CPG) for permanently isolating and using CO2 at the same time was first introduced by Randolph and Saar in 2011. So far CPG has not been tested at the field scale. This study aims at demonstrating the feasibility of CPG for a site in Western Switzerland. First, the study conceptually investigates the CPG power capacity at the study site. Next, a conceptual 3D model is created using an interpreted seismic anticline structure in the Triassic sediments of the Swiss Molasse Basin. We conduct multi-phase fluid flow simulations based on the conceptual geologic model to simulate realistic CO2 circulation. Injection and production rates for multiple well configurations are assessed to calculate the expected geothermal energy production. The obtained results will provide an assessment of the general site suitability and storage capacity for long-term CCUS. Also, these results will enable an estimation of the CPG potential and geothermal power output of the site.

Suherlina, L., D. Bruhn, M.O. Saar, Y. Kamah, and M. Brehme, Updated Geological and Structural Conceptual Model in High Temperature Geothermal Field, European Geothermal Congress 2022, 2022.

Kottsova, A., D. Bruhn, M.O. Saar, and M. Brehme, Clogging mechanisms in geothermal operations: theoretical examples and an applied study, European Geothermal Congress 2022, (in press).

Hefny, M., M.B. Setiawan, M. Hammed, C.-Z. Qin, E. Ebigbo, and M.O. Saar, Optimizing fluid(s) circulation in a CO2-based geothermal system for cost-effective electricity generation , European Geothermal Congress 2022, 2022. [Download] [View Abstract]Carbon Capture and permanent geologic Storage (CCS) can be utilized (U) to generate electrical power from low- to medium-enthalpy geothermal systems in so-called CO2-Plume Geothermal (CPG) power plants. The process of electrical power generation entails a closed circulation of the captured CO2 between the deep underground geological formation (where the CO2 is naturally geothermally heated) and the surface power plant (where the CO2 is expanded in a turbine to generate electricity, cooled, compressed, and then combined with the CO2 stream, from a CO2 emitter, before it is reinjected into the subsurface reservoir). In this research, initially a comprehensive techno-economic method (Adams et al., 2021), which coupled the surface power plant and the subsurface reservoirs, supplies the curves for CO2-based geothermal power potential and its Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) as a function of the mass flowrate. This way, the optimal mass flowrate can be determined, which depends on the wellbore configuration and reservoir properties. However, the method does not account for the possibility of unwanted water accumulation in the production wells (liquid loading). In order to account for this in the optimization process, a wellbore-reservoir coupling is necessary. In this research, flow of fluids from the geological formation into the production wellbores has been analysed by optimizing the reservoir modelling. The optimization method has been extended to a set of representative geological realizations (500+). The optimal CO2 mass flowrate provided using genGEO, which maximizes net-electrical power output while minimizing LCOE, can now be related to the risk of liquid loading occurring. Additionally, the resultant reservoir model can forecast the CO2-plume migration, the reservoir pressure streamlines among the wellbores, and the CO2 saturation around the production wellbore(s).

Rangriz Shokri, A., K.P. Hau, M.O. Saar, D. White, E. Nickel, G. Siddiqi, and R.J. Chalaturnyk, Modeling CO2 Circulation Test for Sustainable Geothermal Power Generation at the Aquistore CO2 Storage Site, Saskatchewan, Canada, 2nd Geoscience & Engineering in Energy Transition Conference, 2021, pp. 1-5, 2021. [Download] [View Abstract]Over the past decade, geological storage of CO2, mostly in deep saline aquifers, has demonstrated a practical short-to-medium term means to partially meet the ambitious global commitments to climate change mitigation and net-zero carbon emission policies. As a key element of CO2 Plume Geothermal (CPG) systems, we examine the feasibility of running a CO2 circulation test utilizing an existing underground CO2 plume for synergistic utilization of the Aquistore site for both subsurface CO2 storage and geothermal power generation. In this work, we appraised the most probable realizations of CO2 plume extent from history matched numerical simulations and time-lapse seismic monitoring. We extracted and re-built a high-resolution sector model from a developed full geological model to represent the geology near the existing injection and observation wells. Given the extensive field evidence of CO2 arrival at the observation well, we performed uncertainty assessment of a CO2 circulation pilot test between the injector and the producer (i.e. observation well), followed by assessment of the resulting flow regimes during CO2/brine co-production. The findings of this paper assist in identifying the potential and limitations associated with conducting a CO2 circulation test and ultimately CPG operations at geologic CO2 storage sites such as Aquistore.

Hau, K.P., A. Rangriz Shokri, E. Nickel, R.J. Chalaturnyk, and M.O. Saar, On the Suitability of the Aquistore CCS-site for a CO2-Circulation Test, World Geothermal Congress 2020+1, 2020. [View Abstract]It is commonly known that a drastic decrease in global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is necessary, in order to reach the climate goals set by the Paris agreement in 2015. A key technology towards achieving that goal is CCUS - Carbon, Capture, Utilisation, and Sequestration. By using supercritical CO2 instead of brine/water as a geothermal working fluid, geothermal energy production can possibly be expanded to regions with lower heat gradients in subsurface formations, while permanently storing CO2 underground. This first-order, conceptual study investigates the suitability of the Aquistore CCS-site for a CO2-circulation pilot test. For doing so, numerical simulations were performed to learn about the site responses to CO2-circulation, the amount of back-produced CO2 versus brine, and to estimate the flow behaviour in a potential CO2 gas production well. A key requirement for a successful CO2-circulation pilot test is to prevent liquid loading in the CO2 gas production well. Liquid loading occurs if brine or water accumulates in the production well. It can be avoided by maintaining an annular flow regime in the multi-phase fluid production stream of the production well. The resulting flow regime is mainly controlled by the total mass flow rate of the production stream. This in turn strongly depends on the overall transmissivity of the reservoir. The obtained simulation results suggest that steady-state conditions will occur within days to a few weeks after the start of the CO2-circulation. Moreover, our results show that the amount of back-produced CO2 is one order of magnitude larger than the amount of back-produced brine. In the majority of cases, we observe that the back-produced fluid production stream will ultimately flow in an annular flow pattern. Further analysis of CO2-circulation results indicate a need to better characterize the subsurface multiphase fluid flow behaviour. To this end, attempts to constrain the uncertainty associated with the Aquistore reservoir characterization and CO2 plume growth through high-resolution history matching of non-isothermal injection data and time-lapse seismic monitoring surveys are discussed.

Niederau, J., A. Ebigbo, and M. Saar, Characterization of Subsurface Heat-Transport Processes in the Canton of Aargau Using an Integrative Workflow, Proceedings World Geothermal Congress 2020, (in press). [View Abstract]In a referendum in May 2017, Switzerland decided to phase out nuclear power in favor of further developing renewable energy sources. One of these energy sources is geothermal energy, which, as a base-load technology, fills a niche complementary to solar and wind energy. A known surface-heat-flow anomaly exists in the Canton of Aargau in Northern Switzerland. With measured specific heat-flow values of up to 140 mW m-2, it is an area of interest for deep geothermal energy exploration. In a pilot study, which started in late 2018, we want to characterize the heat-flow distribution in the vicinity of the anomaly in more detail to facilitate future assessment of the geothermal potential of this region. To achieve a complete characterization of the heat-flow values as well as their spatial uncertainty, we develop a workflow comprising: (i) assimilation and homogenization of different types of geologic data, (ii) development of a geological model with focus on heat transport, and (iii) numerical simulations of the dominant heat-transport processes. Due to its nature as a pilot study, the developed workflow needs to be integrative and adaptable. This means that data generated during the course of the project can easily be integrated in the modeling and simulation process, and that the generated workflow should easily be adaptable to other regions for potential future studies. One further goal of this project is that the generated models and simulations provide insights into the nature of the heat-flow anomaly in Northern Switzerland and to test the hypothesis that upward migration of deep geothermal fluids along structural pathways is the origin of this particular heat-flow anomaly.

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] [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.

Birdsell, D., and M. Saar, Modeling Ground Surface Deformation at the Swiss HEATSTORE Underground Thermal Energy Storage Sites, Proceedings World Geothermal Congress, 2020. [Download] [View Abstract]High temperature (>25 °C) aquifer thermal energy storage (HT-ATES) is a promising technology to store waste heat and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by injecting hot water into the subsurface during the summer months and extracting it for district heating in the winter months. Nevertheless, ensuring the long-term technical success of an HT-ATES project is difficult because it involves complex coupling of fluid flow, heat transfer, and geomechanics. For example, ground surface deformation due to thermo- and poro- elastic deformation could cause damage to nearby infrastructure, and it has not been considered very extensively in the literature. The Swiss HEATSTORE consortium is a group of academic and industrial partners that is developing HT-ATES pilot projects in Geneva and Bern, Switzerland. Possible target formations at the Geneva site include: (a) fractured Cretaceous limestone aquifers interbedded within lower-permeability sedimentary rock and (b) Jurassic reef complex(es), also potentially fractured. In this work we offer numerical modeling support for the Geneva site. A site-specific, hydro-mechanical (HM) model is created, which uses input from the energy systems scenarios and 3D static geological modeling performed by other Swiss consortium partners. Results show that a large uplift (> 5 cm) is possible after one loading cycle, but a sensitivity analysis shows that uplift is decreased to ≤ 0.3 cm if the aquifer permeability is increased or an auxiliary well is included to balance inflow and outflow. Future work includes running coupled thermo-hydro-mechanical (THM) models for several loading and unloading cycles. The THM framework can help inform future decisions about the Swiss HT-ATES sites (e.g. the final site selection within the Geneva basin, well spacing, and operating temperature). It can also be applied to understand surface deformation in the context of geothermal energy, carbon sequestration, and at other ATES sites worldwide.

Samrock, F., A.V. Grayver, B. Cherkose, A. Kuvshinov, and M.O. Saar, Aluto-Langano Geothermal Field, Ethiopia: Complete Image Of Underlying Magmatic-Hydrothermal System Revealed By Revised Interpretation Of Magnetotelluric Data, Proceedings World Geothermal Congress 2020, 2020. [Download] [View Abstract]Aluto-Langano in the Main Ethiopian Rift Valley is currently the only producing geothermal field in Ethiopia and probably the best studied prospect in the Ethiopian Rift. Geoscientific exploration began in 1973 and led to the siting of an exploration well LA3 on top of the volcanic complex. The well was drilled in 1983 to a depth of 2144m and encountered temperatures of 320°C. Since 1990 Aluto has produced electricity, albeit with interruptions. Currently it is undergoing a major expansion phase with the plan to generate about 70MWe from eight new wells, until now two of them have been drilled successfully. Geophysical exploration at Aluto involved magnetotelluric (MT) soundings, which helped delineate the clay cap atop of the hydrothermal reservoir. However, until now geophysical studies did not succeed in imaging the proposed magmatic heat source that would drive the observed hydrothermal convection. For this study, we inverted 165 of a total of 208 MT stations that were measured over the entire volcanic complex in three independent surveys by the Geological Survey of Ethiopia and ETH Zurich, Switzerland. For the inversion, we used a novel 3-D inverse solver that employs adaptive finite element techniques, which allowed us to accurately model topography and account for varying lateral and vertical resolution. We inverted MT phase tensors. This transfer function is free of galvanic distortions that have long been recognized as an obstacle in MT inversion. Our recovered model shows, for the first time, the entire magmatic-hydrothermal system under the geothermal field. The up-flow of melt is structurally controlled by extensional rift faults and sourced by a lower crustal basaltic mush reservoir. Productive wells were all drilled into a weak fault zone below the clay cap. The productive reservoir is underlain by an electrically conductive upper-crustal feature, which we interpret as a highly crystalline rhyolitic mush zone, acting as the main heat source. Our results demonstrate the importance of a dense MT site distribution and state-of-the-art inversion tools in order to obtain reliable and complete subsurface models of high enthalpy systems below volcanic geothermal prospects.

Niederau, J., A. Ebigbo, and M. O. Saar, Characterization of Subsurface Heat-Transport Processes in the Canton of Aargau Using an Integrative Workflow, Proceedings World Geothermal Congress 2020, Reykjavik, Iceland, April 26 - May 2, 2020, 2020. [View Abstract]In a referendum in May 2017, Switzerland decided to phase out nuclear power in favor of further developing renewable energy sources. One of these energy sources is geothermal energy, which, as a base-load technology, fills a niche complementary to solar and wind energy. A known surface-heat-flow anomaly exists in the Canton of Aargau in Northern Switzerland. With measured specific heat-flow values of up to 140 mW m-2, it is an area of interest for deep geothermal energy exploration. In a pilot study, which started in late 2018, we want to characterize the heat-flow distribution in the vicinity of the anomaly in more detail to facilitate future assessment of the geothermal potential of this region. To achieve a complete characterization of the heat-flow values as well as their spatial uncertainty, we develop a workflow comprising: (i) assimilation and homogenization of different types of geologic data, (ii) development of a geological model with focus on heat transport, and (iii) numerical simulations of the dominant heat-transport processes. Due to its nature as a pilot study, the developed workflow needs to be integrative and adaptable. This means that data generated during the course of the project can easily be integrated in the modeling and simulation process, and that the generated workflow should easily be adaptable to other regions for potential future studies. One further goal of this project is that the generated models and simulations provide insights into the nature of the heat-flow anomaly in Northern Switzerland and to test the hypothesis that upward migration of deep geothermal fluids along structural pathways is the origin of this particular heat-flow anomaly.

Guglielmetti, L., P. Alt-Epping, D. Birdsell, F. de Oliveira, L. Diamond, T. Driesner, O. Eruteya, P. Hollmuller, et al., and M.O. Saar, HEATSTORE SWITZERLAND: New Opportunities of Geothermal District Heating Network Sustainable Growth by High Temperature Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage Development, World Geothermal Congress, 2020. [View Abstract]HEATSTORE is a GEOTHERMICA ERA-NET co-funded project, aiming at developing High Temperature (~25°C to ~90°C) Underground Thermal Energy Storage (HT-UTES) technologies by lowering the cost, reducing risks, improving the performance, and optimizing the district heating network demand side management at 6 new pilot and demonstration sites, two of which are in Switzerland, plus 8 case studies. The European HEATSTORE consortium includes 24 contributing partners from 9 countries, composing a mix of scientific research institutes and private companies. The Swiss consortium, developing HEATSTORE in Switzerland, involves of two industrial partners (Services Industriels de Geneva - SIG and Energie Wasser Bern - EWB) and four academic partners (Universities of Geneva, Bern, Neuchâtel and ETH Zurich), with support from the Swiss Federal Office of Energy. The aims are to develop two demonstration projects for High Temperature Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage (HT-ATES) in the cantons of Geneva and Bern such that industrial waste heat can be converted into a resource. This paper presents the results of the first year of activities in the Swiss projects. The activities planned cover subsurface characterization, energy system analysis, surface implementation design, legal framework improvement and business modelling to ensure the sustainability of the projects. This approach is supported by large industrial investments for subsurface characterization. Two wells, down to 1200m below surface level (bsl) are being drilled in the Geneva area to tap potential targets in the carbonate Mesozoic units and at least three additional wells, down to 500m bsl will target the Molasse sediments in the Bern area next year. These wells allow subsurface exploration and characterization and will provide data, used for detailed THMC modelling to assess the thermal energy storage potential at the two sites in Switzerland. The results of such numerical modelling are combined with energy system analysis to quantify the waste heat availability and heat demand and hence optimize the production and injection operations. The outcomes of the coupled assessments will aid in designing the integration of the new installations into the district- heating network. Legal framework improvements, based on complete technical evaluation and on the best-practice sharing with the other European partners, will be an enabling tool to accelerate the implementation of the HT-ATES systems, while business modelling helps calibrate the economic feasibility of the projects and helps industrial partners to plan future investments.

Lima, M., P. Schädle, D. Vogler, M. Saar, and X.-Z. Kong, A Numerical Model for Formation Dry-out During CO2 Injection in Fractured Reservoirs Using the MOOSE Framework: Implications for CO2-based Geothermal Energy Extraction, Proceedings of the World Geothermal Congress 2020, Reykjavík, Iceland, (in press). [View Abstract]Injection of supercritical carbon dioxide (scCO2) into geological reservoirs is involved in Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS), such as geological CO2 storage, and Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS). The potential physico-chemical interactions between the dry scCO2, the reservoir fluid, and rocks may cause formation dry-out, where mineral precipitates due to continuous evaporation of water into the scCO2 stream. This salt precipitation may impair the rock bulk permeability and cause a significant decrease in the well injectivity. Formation dry-out and the associated salt precipitation during scCO2 injection into porous media have been investigated in previous studies by means of numerical simulations and laboratory experiments. However, few studies have focused on the dry-out effects in fractured rocks in particular, where the mass transport is strongly influenced by the fracture aperture distribution. In this study, we numerically model the dry-out processes occurring during scCO2 injection into brine-saturated single fractures and evaluate the potential of salt precipitation. Fracture aperture fields are photogrammetrically determined with fracture geometries of naturally fractured granite cores from the Deep Underground Geothermal (DUG) Lab at the Grimsel Test Site (GTS), in Switzerland. We use an open-source, parallel finite element framework to numerically model two-phase flow through a 2D fracture plane. Under in-situ reservoir conditions, the brine is displaced by dry scCO2 and also evaporates into the CO2 stream. The fracture permeability is calculated with the local cubic law. Additionally, we extend the numerical model by the Young-Laplace equation to determine the aperture-based capillary pressure. Finally, as future work, the precipitation of salt will be modelled by employing a uniform mineral growth approach, where the local aperture uniformly decreases with the increase in precipitated mineral volume. The numerical simulations assist in understanding the long-term behaviour of reservoir injectivity during subsurface applications that involve scCO2 injection, including CO2-based geothermal energy extraction.

Hefny, M., C.-Z. Qin, A. Ebigbo, J. Gostick, M.O. Saar, and M. Hammed, CO2-Brine flow in Nubian Sandstone (Egypt): Pore-Network Modeling using Computerized Tomography Imaging, European Geothermal Congress (EGC), 2019. [Download] [View Abstract]The injection of CO2 into the highly permeable Nubian Sandstone of a depleted oil field in the central Gulf of Suez Basin (Egypt) is an effective way to extract enthalpy from deep sedimentary basins while sequestering CO2, forming a so-called CO2-Plume Geothermal (CPG) system. Subsurface flow models require constitutive relationships, including relative permeability and capillary pressure curves, to determine the CO2-plume migration at a representative geological scale. Based on the fluid-displacement mechanisms, quasi-static pore-network modeling has been used to simulate the equilibrium positions of fluid-fluid interfaces, and thus determine the capillary pressure and relative permeability curves. 3D images with a voxel size of 650 nm3 of a Nubian Sandstone rock sample have been obtained using Synchrotron Radiation X-ray Tomographic Microscopy. From the images, topological properties of pores/throats were constructed. Using a pore-network model, we performed a cycle of primary drainage of quasi-static invasion to quantify the saturation of scCO2 at the point of a breakthrough with emphasis on the relative permeability–saturation relationship. We compare the quasi-static flow simulation results from the pore-network model with experimental observations. It shows that the Pc-Sw curve is very similar to those observed experimentally.

Rossi, E., S. Jamali, M.O. Saar, and Ph. Rudolf von Rohr, Laboratory and field investigation of a combined thermo-mechanical technology to enhance deep geothermal drilling, 81st EAGE Conference & Exhibition 2019, Jun 2019, pp. 1-5, 2019. [Download] [View Abstract]The development of deep geothermal systems to boost global electricity production relies on finding cost-effective solutions to enhance the drilling performance in hard rock formations. In this work, we investigate a novel drilling method combining thermal spallation and conventional drilling. This method aims to reduce the rock removal efforts of conventional drilling by thermally assisting the drilling process by flame jets. Laboratory experiments are conducted on the combined drilling concept by studying the effects of flame treatments on the mechanical strength of hard and soft rocks. In addition, investigation on the interaction between the rock and a cutting tool, permits to show that the combined method can drastically improve the drilling performance in terms of rate of penetration, bit wearing and the required mechanical energy to remove the material. As a proof-of-concept of the method, a field demonstration is presented, where the technology is implemented in a conventional drill rig in order to show the process feasibility as well as to quantify its performance under realistic conditions.

Lima, M.M., P. Schädle, D. Vogler, M.O. Saar, and X.-Z. Kong, Impact of Effective Normal Stress on Capillary Pressure in a Single Natural Fracture, European Geothermal Congress 2019, pp. 1-9, 2019. [View Abstract]Multiphase fluid flow through rock fractures occurs in many reservoir applications such as geological CO2 storage, Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS), nuclear waste disposal, and oil and gas production. However, constitutional relations of capillary pressure versus fluid saturation, particularly considering the change of fracture aperture distributions under various stress conditions, are poorly understood. In this study, we use fracture geometries of naturally-fractured granodiorite cores as input for numerical simulations of two-phase brine displacement by super critical CO 2 under various effective normal stress conditions. The aperture fields are first mapped via photogrammetry, and the effective normal stresses are applied by means of a Fast Fourier Transform (FFT)-based convolution numerical method. Throughout the simulations, the capillary pressure is evaluated from the local aperture. Two approaches to obtain the capillary pressure are used for comparison: either directly using the Young-Laplace equation, or the van Genuchten equation fitted from capillary pressure-saturation relations generated using the pore-occupancy model. Analyses of the resulting CO2 injection patterns and the breakthrough times enable investigation of the relationships between the effective normal stress, flow channelling and aperture-based capillary pressures. The obtained results assist the evaluation of two-phase flow through fractures in the context of various subsurface applications.

Ma, J., M.O. Saar, and X.-Z. Kong, Estimation of Effective Surface Area: A Study on Dolomite Cement Dissolution in Sandstones, Proceedings World Geothermal Congress 2020, 2019.

von Planta, C., D. Vogler, X. Chen, M.G.C. Nestola, M.O. Saar, and R. Krause, Fluid-structure interaction with a parallel transfer operators to model hydro-mechanical processes in heterogeneous fractures, International Conference on Coupled Processes in Fractured Geological Media (CouFrac 2018), pp. 1-4, 2018. [View Abstract]Contact mechanics and fluid flow in rough fractures are actively researched topics in reservoir engineering (e.g., enhanced geothermal systems, CO2 sequestration and oil- and gas-extraction) to estimate reservoir productivity or leak-off. Mechanical and fluid flow processes in reservoirs are often tightly coupled and exhibit a strongly non-linear behavior. Understanding hydro-mechanically coupled behavior in fractures is complicated further by highly variable fracture geometries [3, 4]. We present a simulation approach for hydro-mechanical processes in rough fracture geometries with variational parallel transfer operators. The contact problem at the boundary between the two rough fracture surfaces is solved using a finite element formulation of linear elasticity on an unstructured mesh. The contact formulation uses a mortar method with Lagrange multipliers and does not use a penalty parameter or other regularizations. For the Navier-Stokes formulation of the fluid we use a finite element formulation on a structured grid. Information between the meshes is transferred via the variational transfer operators, whereby the solid interacts with the fluid by enforcing velocity constraints at the solid-fluid interface and the fluid interacts with the solid by converting the fluid velocity into a pressure force acting on the solid.

Myre, J.M., E. Frahm, D.J. Lilja, and M.O. Saar, Solving Large Dense Least-Squares Problems: Preconditioning to Take Conjugate Gradient From Bad in Theory, to Good in Practice, IEEE International Parallel and Distributed Processing Symposium Workshops (IPDPSW), pp. 987-995, 2018. [Download] [View Abstract]Since its inception by Gauss, the least-squares problem has frequently arisen in science, mathematics, and engineering. Iterative methods, such as Conjugate Gradient Normal Residual (CGNR), have been popular for solving sparse least-squares problems, but have historically been regarded as undesirable for dense applications due to poor convergence. We contend that this traditional “common knowledge” should be reexamined. Preconditioned CGNR, and perhaps other iterative methods, should be considered alongside standard methods when addressing large dense least-squares problems. In this paper we present TNT, a dynamite method for solving large dense least-squares problems. TNT implements a Cholesky preconditioner for the CGNR fast iterative method. The Cholesky factorization provides a preconditioner that, in the absence of round-off error, would yield convergence in a single iteration. Through this preconditioner and good parallel scaling, TNT provides improved performance over traditional least-squares solvers allowing for accelerated investigations of scientific and engineering problems. We compare a parallel implementations of TNT to parallel implementations of other conventional methods, including the normal equations and the QR method. For the small systems tested (15000 × 15000 or smaller), it is shown that TNT is capable of producing smaller solution errors and executing up to 16× faster than the other tested methods. We then apply TNT to a representative rock magnetism inversion problem where it yields the best solution accuracy and execution time of all tested methods.

Rossi, E., M.A. Kant, O. Borkeloh, M.O. Saar, and Ph. Rudolf von Rohr, Experiments on Rock-Bit Interaction During a Combined Thermo-Mechanical Drilling Method, 43rd Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering, SGP-TR-213, 2018. [View Abstract]The development of deep geothermal systems to boost global electricity production relies on finding cost-effective solutions to enhance the drilling performance in hard rock formations. Conventional drilling methods, based on mechanical removal of the rock material, are characterized by high drill bit wear rates and low rates of penetration (ROP) in hard rocks, resulting in high drilling costs, which account for more than 60% of the overall costs for a geothermal project. Therefore, alternative drilling technologies are investigated worldwide with the aim of improving the drilling capabilities and therewith enhancing the exploitation of deep geothermal resources. In this work, a promising drilling method, where conventional rotary drilling is thermally assisted by a flame-jet, is evaluated. Here, the thermal weakening of the rock material, performed by flame-jets, facilitates the subsequent mechanical removal performed by conventional cutters. The flame moves on the rock surface and thermally treats the material by inducing high thermal gradients and high temperatures, therewith reducing the mechanical properties of the rock. This would result in reduced forces on the drill bits, leading to lower bit wear rates and improved rates of penetration and therefore significantly decreasing the drilling costs, especially for deep-drilling projects. In this work, the feasibility of the proposed drilling method is assessed by comparing the rock-bit interaction in sandstone and granite under baseline and thermally treated conditions. Rock abrasivity, tool penetration and cutting forces are investigated to quantify the rock-bit interaction in granite and sandstone under baseline conditions and after the thermal treatment. The results highlights the dominant mechanisms regulating the rock removal. The removal performance of the tool in the granite material are found to be greatly enhanced by the thermal treatment both in terms of volume removed from the sample and worn volume at the tool’s tip. On the other hand, the sandstone material, after a thermal treatment, yields significantly lower wearing of the cutting tool. Thus, this results allow to draw important conclusions regarding the achievable drilling performances during the combined thermo-mechanical drilling method towards its application in the field.

Garapati, N., B.M. Adams, J.M. Bielicki, P. Schaedle, J.B. Randolph, T.H. Kuehn, and M.O. Saar, A Hybrid Geothermal Energy Conversion Technology - A Potential Solution for Production of Electricity from Shallow Geothermal Resources, Energy Procedia, 114, pp. 7107-7117, 2017. [Download] [View Abstract]Geothermal energy has been successfully employed in Switzerland for more than a century for direct use but presently there is no electricity being produced from geothermal sources. After the nuclear power plant catastrophe in Fukushima, Japan, the Swiss Federal Assembly decided to gradually phase out the Swiss nuclear energy program. Deep geothermal energy is a potential resource for clean and nearly CO2-free electricity production that can supplant nuclear power in Switzerland and worldwide. Deep geothermal resources often require enhancement of the permeability of hot-dry rock at significant depths (4-6 km), which can induce seismicity. The geothermal power projects in the Cities of Basel and St. Gallen, Switzerland, were suspended due to earthquakes that occurred during hydraulic stimulation and drilling, respectively. Here we present an alternative unconventional geothermal energy utilization approach that uses shallower, lower-temperature, naturally permeable regions, that drastically reduce drilling costs and induced seismicity. This approach uses geothermal heat to supplement a secondary energy source. Thus this hybrid approach may enable utilization of geothermal energy in many regions in Switzerland and elsewhere, that otherwise could not be used for geothermal electricity generation. In this work, we determine the net power output, energy conversion efficiencies, and economics of these hybrid power plants, where the geothermal power plant is actually a CO2-based plant. Parameters varied include geothermal reservoir depth (2.5-4.5 km) and turbine inlet temperature (100-220 °C) after auxiliary heating. We find that hybrid power plants outperform two individual, i.e., stand-alone geothermal and waste-heat power plants, where moderate geothermal energy is available. Furthermore, such hybrid power plants are more economical than separate power plants.

Vogler, D., R.R. Settgast, C.S. Sherman, V.S. Gischig, R. Jalali, J.A. Doetsch, B. Valley, K.F. Evans, F. Amann, and M.O. Saar, Modeling the Hydraulic Fracture Stimulation performed for Reservoir Permeability Enhancement at the Grimsel Test Site, Switzerland, Proc. of the 42nd Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering, Stanford University Stanford, CA, USA, February 13-15, 2017, Proceedings of the 42nd Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering Stanford University, 2017. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]In-situ hydraulic fracturing has been performed on the decameter scale in the Deep Underground rock Laboratory (DUG Lab) at the Grimsel Test Site (GTS) in Switzerland in order to measure the minimum principal stress magnitude and orientation. Conducted tests were performed in a number of boreholes, with 3–4 packer intervals in each borehole subjected to repeated injection. During each test, fluid injection pressure, injection flow rate and microseismic events were recorded amongst others. Fully coupled 3D simulations have been performed with the LLNL's GEOS simulation framework. The methods applied in the simulation of the experiments address physical processes such as rock deformation/stress, LEFM fracture mechanics, fluid flow in the fracture and matrix, and the generation of micro-seismic events. This allows to estimate the distance of fracture penetration during the injection phase and correlate the simulated injection pressure with experimental data during injection, as well as post shut-in. Additionally, the extent of the fracture resulting from simulations of fracture propagation and microseismic events are compared with the spatial distribution of the microseismic events recorded in the experiment.

Rossi, E., M. Kant, F. Amann, M.O. Saar, and P. Rudolf von Rohr, The effects of flame-heating on rock strength: Towards a new drilling technology, Proc. of the American Rock Mechanics Association (ARMA) Symposium San Francisco, USA, June 25-28, 2017, Proceedings ARMA 2017, 2017. [View Abstract]The applicability of a combined thermo-mechanical drilling technique is investigated. The working principle of this method is based on the implementation of a heat source as a mean to either provoke thermal spallation on the surface or to weaken the rock material, when spallation is not possible. Thermal spallation drilling has already been proven to work in hard crystalline rocks, however, several difficulties hamper its application for deep resource exploitation. In order to prove the effectiveness of a combined thermo-mechanical drilling method, the forces required to export the treated sandstone material with a polycrystalline diamond compact (PDC) cutter are analyzed. The main differences between oven and flame treatments are studied by comparing the resulting strength after heat-treating the samples up to temperatures of \(650\, ^{\circ}C\) and for heating rates ranging from \(0.17 \,^{\circ}C/s\) to \(20 ^{\circ}C/s\). For moderate temperatures (\(300-450 \,^{\circ}C\)) the unconfined compressive strength after flame treatments monotonously decreased, opposed to the hardening behavior observed after oven treatments. Thermally induced intra-granular cracking and oxidation patterns served as an estimation of the treated depth due to the flame heat treatment. Therefore, conclusions on preferred operating conditions of the drilling system are drawn based on the experimental results.

Garapati, N., J. Randolph, S. Finsterle, and M.O. Saar, Simulating Reinjection of Produced Fluids Into the Reservoir, Proc. of the Stanford Geothermal workshop Stanford, CA, February 2016, Proceedings of 41st Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering, 2016. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]ABSTRACT In order to maintain reservoir pressure and stability and to reduce reservoir s ubsidence, reinjection of produced fluids into the reservoir is common practice . Furthermore, studies by Karvounis and Jenny (2012 ; 2014), Buscheck et al. (2015), and Saar et al. (2015) found that preheating the working fluid in shallow reservoirs and then injecting the fluid into a deep reservoir can increase the reservoir life span, the heat extraction efficiency, and the economic gains of a geothermal power plant . We have modif ied the TOUGH2 simulator to enable the reinjection of produced fluids with the same chemical composition as the produced fluid and with either a prescribed or the production temperature . T he latter capability is useful, for example, for simulating injecti on of produced fluid into another (e .g., deeper) reservoir without energy extraction. Each component of the fluid mixture , produced from the production well , is reinjected into the reservoir as an individual source term. In the current study, we investigate a CO 2 - based geothermal system and focus on the effects of reinjecting small amounts of brine that are produced along with the CO 2 . Brine has a significantly smaller mobility (inverse kinematic viscosity) than supercritical CO 2 at a given temperature and thus accumulates near the injection well. Such brine accumulation reduces the relative permeability for the CO 2 phase, which in turn increases the pore - fluid pressure around the injection well and reduces the well in j ectivity index. For this reason, and as injection of two fluid phases is pr oblematic, we recommend removal of any brine from the produced fluid before the cooled CO 2 is reinjected into the reservoir. We also study the performance of a multi - level geothermal system (Karvounis and Jenny, 2012; 2014; Saar et al., 2015) by injection of preheated brine from a shallow reservoir (1.5 - 3 km) into a deep reservoir (5 km). We f i nd that preheating brine at the shallow reservoir extends the lifespan of the deep, hot reservoir, thereby increasing the total power production.

Buscheck, T.A., J.M. Bielicki, M. Chen, Y. Sun, Y. Hao, T.A. Edmunds, J.B. Randolph, and M.O. Saar, Multi-Fluid Sedimentary Geothermal Energy Systems for Dispatchable Renewable Electricity, Proc. of the World Geothermal Congress Melbourne, 19-25April, Proceedings to the World Geothermal Congress, 2015. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]Sedimentary geothermal resources typically have lower temperatures and energy densities than hydrothermal resources, but they often have higher permeability and larger areal extents. Consequently, spacing between injection and production wells is likely to be wider in sedimentary resources, which can result in more fluid pressure loss, increa sing the parasitic cost of powering the working fluid recirculation system, compared to hydrothermal systems . For hydrostatic geothermal resources , extracting heat requires that brine be lifted up production wells, such as with submersible pumps, which can consume a large portion of the electricity generated by the power plant. CO 2 is being considered as an alternative working fluid (also termed a supplemental fluid) because its advantageous thermophysical properties reduce this parasitic cost, and because of the synergistic benefit of geologic CO 2 sequestration (GCS). We expand on this idea by: (1) adding the option for multiple supplemental fluids (N 2 as well as CO 2 ) and injecting these fluids to create overpressured reservoir conditions , (2) utiliz ing up to three working fluids: brine, CO 2 , and N 2 for heat extraction, (3) using a well pattern designed to store supplemental fluid and pressure , and (4) time - shifting the parasitic load associated with fluid recirculation to provide ancillary services ( frequen cy regulat ion , load fo llowing , and spinning reserve) and bulk energy storage (BES) . Our approach uses concentric rings of horizontal wells to create a hydraulic divide to store supplemental fluid and pressure, much like a hydroelectric dam. While, as with any geothermal system, electricity production can be run as a base - load power source, p roduction wells can alternatively b e controlled like a spillway to supply power when demand is greatest. For conventional geothermal power, the parasitic power load for fluid recirculation is synchronous with gross power output. In contrast, our approach time - shift s much of this parasitic load, which is dominated by the power required to pressurize and inject brine . Th us, most of the parasitic load can be scheduled durin g minimum power demand or when, due to its inherent var iability, there is a surplus of renewable energy on the grid . Energy storage is almost 100 percent efficient because it is achieved by time - shifting the parasitic load. Consequently, net power can near ly equal gross power during peak demand so that geothermal energy can be used as a form of high - efficiency BES at large scales . A further benefit of our approach is that production rates (per well) can exceed the capacity of submersible pumps and thereby t ake advantage of the productivity of horizontal wells and better leverage we ll costs — which often constitute a major portion of capital costs . Our vision is a n efficient, dispatchable , renewable electricity system approach that facilitates deep market penet ration of all renewable energy sources: wind, solar, and geothermal, whi le utilizing and permanently storing CO 2 in a commercially viable manner

Saar, M.O., Th. Buscheck, P. Jenny, N. Garapati, J.B. Randolph, D. Karvounis, M. Chen, Y. Sun, and J.M. Bielicki, Numerical Study of Multi-Fluid and Multi-Level Geothermal System Performance, Proc. of the World Geothermal Congress 2015 Melbourne, Australia, April 19-25, 2015, Proceedings World Geothermal Congress 2015, 2015. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]We introduce the idea of combining multi-fluid and multi-level geothermal systems with two reservoirs at depths of 3 and 5 km. In the base case, for comparison, the two reservoirs are operated independently, each as a multi-fluid (brine and carbon dioxide) reservoir that uses a number of horizontal, concentric injection and production well rings. When the shallow and the deep reservoirs are operated in an integrated fashion, in the shallow reservoir, power is produced only from the carbon dioxide (CO 2), while the brine is geothermally preheated in the shallow multi-fluid reservoir, produced, and then reinjected at the deeper reservoir's brine injectors. The integrated reservoir scenarios are further subdivided into two cases: In one scenario, both brine (preheated in the shallow reservoir) and CO 2 (from the surface) are injected separately into the deeper reservoir's appropriate injectors and both fluids are produced from their respective deep reservoir producers to generate electricity. In the other scenario, only preheated brine is injected into, and produced from, the deep reservoir for electric power generation. We find that integrated, vertically stacked, multi-fluid geothermal systems can result in improved system efficiency when power plant lifespans exceed ~30 years. In addition, preheating of brine before deep injection reduces brine overpressurization in the deep reservoir, reducing the risk of fluid-induced seismicity. Furthermore, CO2-Plume Geothermal (CPG) power plants in general, and the multi-fluid, multi-level geothermal system described here in particular, assign a value to CO2, which in turn may partially or fully offset the high costs of carbon capture at fossil-energy power plants and of CO2 injection, thereby facilitating economically feasible carbon capture and storage (CCS) operations that render fossil-energy power plants green. From a geothermal power plant perspective, the system results in a CO2 sequestering geothermal power plant with a negative carbon footprint. Finally, energy return on well costs and operational flexibility can be greater for integrated geothermal reservoirs, providing additional options for bulk and thermal energy storage, compared to equivalent, but separately operated reservoirs. System economics can be enhanced by revenues related to efficient delivery of large-scale bulk energy storage and ancillary services products (frequency regulation, load following, and spinning reserve), which are essential for electric grid integration of intermittently available renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar. These capabilities serve to stabilize the electric grid and promote development of all renewable energies, beyond geothermal energy. Numerical Study of Multi-Fluid and Multi-Level Geothermal System Performance (PDF Download Available). Available from: [accessed Jun 12, 2017].

Garapati, N., J.B. Randolph, and M.O. Saar, Superheating Low-Temperature Geothermal Resources to Boost Electricity Production, Proc. of the 40th Geothermal Reservoir Engineering Workshop 2015 Stanford, CA, USA, January 26-28, 2015, Proceedings of the 40th Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering 2015, 2, pp. 1210-1221, 2015. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]Low-temperature geothermal resources (<150°C) are typically more effective for direct use, i.e., district heating, than for electricity production. District or industrial heating, however, requires that the heat resource is close to residential or industrial demands in order to be efficient and thus economic. However, if a low-temperature geothermal resource is combined with an additional or secondary energy source that is ideally renewable, such as solar, biomass, biogas, or waste heat, but could be non-renewable, such as natural gas, the thermodynamic quality of the energy source increases, potentially enabling usage of the combined energy sources for electricity generation. Such a hybrid geothermal power plant therefore offers thermodynamic advantages, often increasing the overall efficiency of the combined system above that of the additive power output from two stand-alone, separate plants (one using geothermal energy alone and the other using the secondary energy source alone) for a wide range of operating conditions. Previously, fossil superheated and solar superheated hybrid power plants have been considered for brine/water based geothermal systems, especially for enhanced geothermal systems. These previous studies found, that the cost of electricity production can typically be reduced when a hybrid plant is operated, compared to operating individual plants. At the same time, using currently-available high-temperature energy conversion technologies reduces the time and cost required for developing other less-established energy conversion technologies. Adams et al. (2014) found that CO 2 as a subsurface working fluid produces more net power than when brine systems are employed at low to moderate reservoir depths, temperatures, and permeabilities. Therefore in this work, we compare the performance of hybrid geothermal power plants that use brine or, importantly, CO 2 (which constitutes the new research component) as the subsurface working fluid, irrespective of the secondary energy source used for superheating, over a range of parameters. These parameters include geothermal reservoir depth and superheated fluid temperature before passing through the energy conversion system. The hybrid power plant is modeled using two software packages: 1) TOUGH2 (Pruess, 2004), which is employed for the subsurface modeling of geothermal heat and fluid extraction as well as for fluid reinjection into the reservoir, and 2) Engineering Equation Solver (EES), which is used to simulate well bore fluid flow and surface power plant performance. We find here that for geothermal systems combined with a secondary energy source (i.e., a hybrid system), the maximum power production for a given set of reservoir parameters is highly dependent on the configuration of the power system. The net electricity production from a hybrid system is larger than that from the individual plants combined for all scenarios considered for brine systems and for low-grade secondary energy resources for CO 2 based geothermal systems. Superheating of Low-Temperature Geothermal Working Fluids to Boost Electricity Production: Comparison between Water and CO2 Systems (PDF Download Available). Available from: [accessed Jun 12, 2017].

Garapati, N., J.B. Randolph, J.L. Valencia Jr., and M.O. Saar, Design of CO2-Plume Geothermal (CPG) subsurface system for various geologic parameters, Proc. of the Fifth International Conference on Coupled Thermo-Hydro-Mechanical-Chemical (THMC) Processes in Geosystems: Petroleum and Geothermal Reservoir Geomechanics and Energy Resource Extraction Salt Lake City, UT, 2015, Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Coupled Thermo-Hydro-Mechanical-Chemical (THMC) Processes in Geosystems: Petroleum and Geothermal Reservoir Geomechanics and Energy Resource Extraction, 2015. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]Recent geotechnical research shows that geothermal heat can be efficiently mined by circulating carbon dioxide through naturally permeable rock formations -- a method called CO2 Plume Geothermal -- the same geologic reservoirs that are suitable for deep saline aquifer CO2 sequestration or enhanced oil recovery. This paper describes the effect of thermal drawdown on reservoir pressure buildup during sequestration operations, revealing that geothermal heat mining can decrease overpressurization by 10% or more. Geothermal Energy Production at Geologic CO2 Sequestration sites: Impact of Thermal Drawdown on Reservoir Pressure (PDF Download Available). Available from: [accessed Jun 12, 2017].

Bailey, P., J. Myre, S.C.D. Walsh, D.J. Lilja, and M.O. Saar, Accelerating Lattice Boltzmann Fluid Flow Simulations Using Graphics Processors, Proc. of the 38th International Conference on Parallel Processing (ICPP) , , IEEE, pp. 550-557, 2009. [Download] [View Abstract]Lattice Boltzmann Methods (LBM) are used for the computational simulation of Newtonian fluid dynamics. LBM-based simulations are readily parallelizable; they have been implemented on general-purpose processors, field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), and graphics processing units (GPUs). Of the three methods, the GPU implementations achieved the highest simulation performance per chip. With memory bandwidth of up to 141 GB/s and a theoretical maximum floating point performance of over 600 GFLOPS, CUDA-ready GPUs from NVIDIA provide an attractive platform for a wide range of scientific simulations, including LBM. This paper improves upon prior single-precision GPU LBM results for the D3Q19 model by increasing GPU multiprocessor occupancy, resulting in an increase in maximum performance by 20%, and by introducing a space-efficient storage method which reduces GPU RAM requirements by 50% at a slight detriment to performance. Both GPU implementations are over 28 times faster than a single-precision quad-core CPU version utilizing OpenMP.

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Schifflechner, C., A.J. de Reus, S. Hartmut, and M.O. Saar, The potential of CO2-Plume Geothermal (CPG) Systems for CO2 component manufacturers: opportunities and development needs, 7th International Seminar on ORC Power Systems, 2023, 2023. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]Subsurface reservoirs play an important role in decarbonizing the energy sector, be it through geothermal energy production or carbon capture and storage (CCS). In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in CO2-Plume Geothermal (CPG) systems, which combine CCS with geothermal, using CO2 instead of water as a subsurface heat and pressure energy carrier. As explained later in the paper, applying CO2 as a subsurface working fluid can be more efficient than water as it has a higher mobility (inverse kinematic viscosity) and as its large thermal expansion coefficient results in a thermosiphon effect that reduces the pumping power required. CO2 can also directly be utilized in a turbine for power generation. Furthermore, since CPG systems are added to full-scale CO2 Capture and Sequestration operations, all of the initially injected CO2 is ultimately stored. CPG therefore constitutes of both CO2 Capture Utilization as well as Storage. This paper assesses the huge technical potential of the CPG technology, identifying a potentially highly relevant market for CO2 equipment manufacturers and discusses the current research demand, based on the current state of the art of CO2 equipment. Both temperature and pressure levels are significantly lower than CO2 turbine designs investigated and proposed so far for other applications, such as waste heat recovery. Together with CPG-specific requirements, due to produced fluid impurities, it becomes evident that significant further development efforts are still necessary regarding future commercial CPG CO2 turbines.

Rangel Jurado, N., X-Z. Kong, A. Kottsova, M. Brehme, F. Games, and M.O. Saar, Experimental characterization of the chemical reactivity of wet scCO2 under elevated pressure and temperature conditions, Society of Core Analysts Annual Symposium , 2023. [View Abstract]CO2-Plume Geothermal (CPG) systems have been proposed as an affordable and scalable strategy to deploy Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) globally. These systems utilize CO2 to extract geothermal energy from the subsurface while ensuring its permanent sequestration in geologic formations. Unlike conventional hydrothermal systems that use water or brine, CPG utilizes pure supercritical CO2 (scCO2) or water-bearing scCO2 as the subsurface working fluid. While the thermal-hydraulic performance of CPG systems has been extensively studied, their chemical behavior remains largely unexplored due to a lack of field and experimental observations. In this study, we address this knowledge gap by investigating the chemical performance of CPG systems through core-scale laboratory experiments. We conducted batch reactions on rock specimens from the Muschelkalk and Gipskeuper formations in Switzerland, subjecting them to interactions with wet scCO2 under reservoir conditions (~35 MPa, 150 °C) for approximately 500 hours. High-resolution techniques, including scanning electron microscopy (SEM), X-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray computed tomography (XRCT), and stable isotope analysis, were employed to characterize the evolution of petrophysical properties, morphology, and mineralogical composition. Furthermore, we analyzed fluid effluents using inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES) to gain insights into ion transport processes associated with dissolution reactions. Our results indicate that fluid-mineral interactions involving CO2-rich supercritical fluids are less severe than those caused by aqueous solutions. Nonetheless, the existence of dissolved ions in the wet CO2 samples is clear evidence of ion dissociation caused by the gaseous phase that warrants further investigation. This experimental investigation provides critical insights into fluid-mineral interactions involving CO2-rich fluids and represents a crucial step in ensuring the long-term security and technical feasibility of deploying global CCS and CO2-based geothermal energy.

Reinicke, A, P Deb, M Saar, V Zikovic, E Lassnig, M Knebel, and JJ Blangé, Novel Directional Steel Shot Drilling Technology for Short-Radius Multilaterals – Field Application and Commercial Impact, European Geosciences Union 2023, EGU23-14928, 2023. [Download] [View Abstract]Please enter abstract here

Ezzat, M., J. Börner, D. Vogler, V. Wittig, B. Kammermann, J. Biela, and M. O. Saar, Lithostatic Pressure Effects on the Plasma-Pulse Geo-Drilling (PPGD), 48 EPS Conference on Plasma Physics , 2022. [Download] [View Abstract]Drilling cost is one of the main challenges facing the utilization of deep closed-loop geothermal systems, so-called Advanced Geothermal Systems (AGS). Plasma-Pulse GeoDrilling (PPGD) is a novel drilling technology that uses high-voltage electric pulses to damage the rock without mechanical abrasion. PPGD may reduce the drilling costs significantly compared to mechanical rotary drilling, according to a comparative analysis that assumes ambient operating conditions. However, the level of performance of PPGD under deep wellbore conditions of higher pressures and temperatures is still ambiguous. Therefore, this contribution presents preliminary experiment results from the laboratory that investigate the effect of high lithostatic pressures of up to 150 MPa, equivalent to a depth of ∼5.7 km, on the performance of PPGD.

Brehme, M, M O Saar, E Slob, P Bombarda, H Maurer, F Wellmann, P Vardon, D Bruhn, and E Team, EASYGO-Efficiency and Safety in Geothermal Operations-A new Innovative Training Networ, EGU General Assembly Conference Abstracts, EGU21-15437, 2021.

Ogland-Hand, J, J Bielicki, B Adams, T Buscheck, and M Saar, Using Sedimentary Basin Geothermal Resources to Provide Long-Duration Energy Storage, Proceedings World Geothermal Congress, 2020. [Download]

Adams, B.M., M.O. Saar, J.M. Bielicki, J.D. Ogland-Hand, and M.R. Fleming, Using Geologically Sequestered CO2 to Generate and Store Geothermal Electricity: CO2 Plume Geothermal (CPG), Applied Energy Symposium: MIT A+B August 12-14, 2020, Cambridge, USA, 2020. [Download] [View Abstract]CO2 Plume Geothermal (CPG) is a carbon neutral renewable electricity generation technology where geologic CO2 is circulated to the surface to directly generate power and then is reinjected into the deep subsurface. In contrast to traditional water geothermal power generation with an Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC), CPG has fewer system inefficiencies and benefits from the lower viscosity of subsurface CO2 which allows power generation at shallower depths, lower temperatures, and lower reservoir transmissivities.

Ezekiel, J., A. Ebigbo, B. Adams, and M.O. Saar, On the use of supercritical carbon dioxide to exploit the geothermal potential of deep natural gas reservoirs for power generation, European Geothermal Congress (EGC), Hague, Netherlands, 11-14 June 2019, 2019.

Hefny, M., C.-Z. Qin, A. Ebigbo, J. Gostick, M.O. Saar, and M. Hammed, CO2-Brine flow in Nubian Sandstone, Egypt: A Pore-Network Modeling using Computerized Tomography Imaging, European Geothermal Congress, The Hague, Netherlands, 11-14 June 2019, 2019.

Ahkami, M. , M.O. Saar, and X.-Z. Kong, Study on mineral precipitation in fractured porous media using Lattice-Boltzmann methods, European Geothermal Congress (EGC), Hague, Netherlands, 11-14 June 2019, 2019.

Lima, M.M.G., Ph. Schädle, D. Vogler, M.O. Saar, and X. Xiang-Zhao, Impact of Effective Normal Stress on Capillary Pressure in a Single Natural Fracture, European Geothermal Congress, The Hague, Netherlands, 11-14 June 2019, 2019.

Fleming, M.R., B.M. Adams, T.H. Kuehn, J.M. Bielicki, and M.O. Saar, Benefits of using active reservoir management during CO2-plume development for CO2-plume geothermal systems., 44th Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, February 11-13, 2019., 2019.

Adams, B.M., M.R. Fleming, J.M. Bielicki, J. Hansper, S. Glos, M. Langer, M. Wechsung, and M.O. Saar, Grid scale energy storage using CO2 in sedimentary basins: the cost of power flexibility., European Geothermal Congress, The Hague, Netherlands, 11-14 June 2019, 2019.

Ogland-Hand, J.D., J.M. Bielicki, E.S. Nelson, B.M. Adams, T.A. Buscheck, M.O. Saar, and R. Sioshansi, Effects of Bulk Energy Storage in Sedimentary Basin Geothermal Resources on Transmission Constrained Electricity Systems , 43rd Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California, February 12-14, 2018, 2018. [View Abstract]Sedimentary basin geothermal resources and carbon dioxide (CO2) can be used for bulk energy storage (CO2-BES), which could reduce the capacity, and thus cost, of high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission infrastructure needed to connect high quality wind resources to distant load centers. In this study, we simulated CO2-BES operation in the Minnelusa Aquifer in eastern Wyoming and used those results in an optimization model to determine the impact that CO2-BES could have on the revenue of a wind farm that sells electricity to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) market under varying HVDC transmission capacity scenarios. We found that the CO2-BES facility can dispatch more electricity than was previously stored because of the geothermal energy input. While CO2-BES performance degrades because of geothermal resource depletion, our results suggest that a CO2-BES facility could increase revenue from electricity sales throughout its lifetime by (1) increasing the utilization of HVDC transmission capacity, and (2) enabling arbitrage of the electricity prices in the CAISO market. In some cases, adding CO2-BES can provide more revenue with less HVDC transmission capacity.

Fleming, M.R., B.M. Adams, J.B. Randolph, J.D. Ogland-Hand, T.H. Kuehn, T.A. Buscheck, J.M. Bielicki, and M.O. Saar, High efficiency and large-scale subsurface energy storage with CO2., 43rd Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, February 12-14, 2018., 2018. [Download] [View Abstract]Storing large amounts of intermittently produced solar or wind power for later, when there is a lack of sunlight or wind, is one of society’s biggest challenges when attempting to decarbonize energy systems. Traditional energy storage technologies tend to suffer from relatively low efficiencies, severe environmental concerns, and limited scale both in capacity and time. Subsurface energy storage can solve the drawbacks of many other energy storage approaches, as it can be large scale in capacity and time, environmentally benign, and highly efficient. When CO2 is used as the (pressure) energy storage medium in reservoirs underneath caprocks at depths of at least ~1 km (to ensure the CO2 is in its supercritical state), the energy generated after the energy storage operation can be greater than the energy stored. This is possible if reservoir temperatures and CO2 storage durations combine to result in more geothermal energy input into the CO2 at depth than what the CO2 pumps at the surface (and other machinery) consume. Such subsurface energy storage is typically also large scale in capacity (due to typical reservoir sizes, potentially enabling storing excess power from a substantial portion of the power grid) and in time (even enabling seasonal energy storage). Here, we present subsurface electricity energy storage with supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) called CO2-Plume Geothermal Energy Storage (CPGES) and discuss the system’s performance, as well as its advantages and disadvantages, compared to other energy storage options. Our investigated system consists of a deep and a shallow reservoir, where excess electricity from the grid is stored by producing CO2 from the shallow reservoir and injecting it into the deep reservoir, storing the energy in the form of pressure and heat. When energy is needed, the geothermally heated CO2 is produced from the deep reservoir and injected into the shallow reservoir, passing through a power generation system along the way. Thus, the shallow reservoir takes the place of a storage tank at the surface. The shallow reservoir well system is a huff-and-puff system to store the CO2 with as few heat and pressure losses as possible, whereas the deep reservoir has an injection and a production well, so the CO2 can extract heat as it passes through. We find that both the diurnal (daily) and seasonal (6 months) CPGES systems generate more electricity to the power grid than they store from it. The diurnal system has a ratio of generated electricity to stored electricity (called the Energy Storage Ratio) between 2.93 and 1.95. Similarly, the seasonal system has an energy storage ratio between 1.55 and 1.05, depending on operational strategy. The energy storage ratio decreases with duration due to the pump power needed to overcome the increasing reservoir pressures as CO2 is stored.

Hansper, J., S. Glos, M. Langer, M. Wechsung, B.M. Adams, and M.O. Saar, Assessment of performance and costs of CO2 plume geothermal (CPG) systems., European Geothermal Congress, Hague, Netherlands, 11-14 June 2019, 2018.

Ezekiel, J., A. Ebigbo, B.M. Adams, and M.O. Saar, On the use of supercritical carbon dioxide to exploit the geothermal potential of deep natural gas reservoirs for power generation., European Geothermal Congress, Hague, Netherlands, 11-14 June 2019, 2018.

Vogler, D., R.R. Settgast, C.S. Sherman, V.S. Gischig, J.A. Doetsch, M.R. Jalali, B. Valley, K.F. Evans, M.O. Saar, and F. Amann, Comparing Simulations and Experiments for Hydraulic Fracture Stimulations Performed at the Grimsel Test Site, Switzerland, Proc. of the 42nd Stanford Geothermal Workshop Palo Alto, CA, USA, February 13-15, 2017, 2017.

Kong, X.-Z., A.M.M. Leal, and M.O. Saar, Implications of hydrothermal flow-through experiments on deep geothermal energy utilization, European Geothermal Congress 2016, 2016. [View Abstract]Utilization of underground reservoirs for geothermal energy extraction, particularly using CO2 as a working fluid, requires an in-depth understanding of fluid, solute (e.g., dissolved CO2 and minerals), and energy (heat, pressure) transport through geologic formations. Such operations necessarily perturb the chemical, thermal, and/or pressure equilibrium between native fluids and rock minerals, potentially causing mineral dissolution and/or precipitation reactions with often immense consequences for fluid, solute, and energy transport, injectivity, and/or withdrawal in/from such reservoirs. The involved physico-chemico-thermo- mechanical processes often lead to modifications of permeability, one of the most variable and important parameters in terms of reservoir fluid flow and related advective solute/reactant and heat transport. Importantly, the amount of mineral dissolution/precipitation that can cause orders of magnitude in permeability reduction can be very small, if minerals are removed or deposited in pore throats or narrow fracture apertures. This potentially has detrimental consequences for geothermal energy usage. However, analysing, understanding, and predicting reservoir evolution and flow properties are non-trivial, as they depend on complex chemical, thermodynamic, and fluid-dynamic feedback mechanisms. To achieve these goals, it requires the integration and extrapolation of thermodynamic, kinetic, and hydrologic data from many disparate sources. The validity, consistency, and accuracy of these data- model combinations are unfortunately often incomparable due to the relative scarcity of appropriate parameterizations in the literature. Here, we present some results of hydrothermal flow-through experiments on rock core samples. During the experiments, we fixed the flow rates, confinement and outlet pore-fluid pressures, and recorded inlet pore- fluid pressure. We also analysed the outlet fluid chemistry samples throughout the experiments and imaged our rock cores before and after the flow- through experiments using X-Ray Computed Tomography (XRCT). With all these data, we are able to interpret the changes in permeability, porosity, and (reactive) surface area at the core scale.

Bielicki, J.M., B.M. Adams, H. Choi, B. Jamiyansuren, M.O. Saar, S.J. Taff, T.A. Buscheck, and J.D. Ogland-Hand, Sedimentary basin geothermal resource for cost-effective generation of renewable electricity from sequestered carbon dioxide., 41st Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, February 22-24, 2016., 2016. [View Abstract]We investigated the efficacy of generating electricity using renewable geothermal heat that is extracted by CO2 that is sequestered in sedimentary basins, a process described as CO2 -Plume Geothermal (CPG) energy production. We developed an integrated systems model that combines power plant performance modeling, reservoir modeling, and the economic costs of a CPG power plant and a CO2 storage operation in order to estimate the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE). The integrated systems model is based on inverted fivespot injection patterns that are common in CO2-enhanced oil recovery operations. Our integrated systems model allows for these patterns to be coupled together, so that the CO2 that is extracted by a production well can be composed of portions of the CO2 that was injected in the four neighboring injection wells. We determined the diameter of the individual wells and the size coupled inverted fivespot well patterns that most effectively used the physical and economic economies of scale for the coupled reservoir and power plant. We found that substantial amounts of power, on the order of hundreds of megawatts, can be produced as the size of the injection pattern increases, and that the estimated LCOE decreases as these patterns expand. Given the appropriate combination of depth, geothermal gradient, and permeability, CPG power plants can have LCOEs that are competitive with other unsubsidized sources of electricity.

Kittilä, A., C. Deuber, G. Mikutis, K. Evans, M. Puddu, R.N. Grass, W.J. Stark, and M.O. Saar, Comparison of novel synthetic DNA nano-colloid tracer and classic solute tracer behaviour, Proc. of the European Geothermal Congress 2016 Strasbourg, 19-23 September, 2016. [Download PDF]

Buscheck, T.A., J.M. Bielicki, M. Chen, Y. Sun, Y. Hao, T.A. Edmunds, J.B. Randolph, and M.O. Saar, Multi-Fluid Sedimentary Geothermal Energy Systems for Dispatchable Renewable Electricity, Proceedings to the World Geothermal Congress, Melbourne, Australia, 19-25 April, 2015. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]Sedimentary geothermal resources typically have lower temperatures and energy densities than hydrothermal resources, but they often have higher permeability and larger areal extents. Consequently, spacing between injection and production wells is likely to be wider in sedimentary resources, which can result in more fluid pressure loss, increa sing the parasitic cost of powering the working fluid recirculation system, compared to hydrothermal systems . For hydrostatic geothermal resources , extracting heat requires that brine be lifted up production wells, such as with submersible pumps, which can consume a large portion of the electricity generated by the power plant. CO 2 is being considered as an alternative working fluid (also termed a supplemental fluid) because its advantageous thermophysical properties reduce this parasitic cost, and because of the synergistic benefit of geologic CO 2 sequestration (GCS). We expand on this idea by: (1) adding the option for multiple supplemental fluids (N 2 as well as CO 2 ) and injecting these fluids to create overpressured reservoir conditions , (2) utiliz ing up to three working fluids: brine, CO 2 , and N 2 for heat extraction, (3) using a well pattern designed to store supplemental fluid and pressure , and (4) time - shifting the parasitic load associated with fluid recirculation to provide ancillary services ( frequen cy regulat ion , load fo llowing , and spinning reserve) and bulk energy storage (BES) . Our approach uses concentric rings of horizontal wells to create a hydraulic divide to store supplemental fluid and pressure, much like a hydroelectric dam. While, as with any geothermal system, electricity production can be run as a base - load power source, p roduction wells can alternatively b e controlled like a spillway to supply power when demand is greatest. For conventional geothermal power, the parasitic power load for fluid recirculation is synchronous with gross power output. In contrast, our approach time - shift s much of this parasitic load, which is dominated by the power required to pressurize and inject brine . Th us, most of the parasitic load can be scheduled durin g minimum power demand or when, due to its inherent var iability, there is a surplus of renewable energy on the grid . Energy storage is almost 100 percent efficient because it is achieved by time - shifting the parasitic load. Consequently, net power can near ly equal gross power during peak demand so that geothermal energy can be used as a form of high - efficiency BES at large scales . A further benefit of our approach is that production rates (per well) can exceed the capacity of submersible pumps and thereby t ake advantage of the productivity of horizontal wells and better leverage we ll costs — which often constitute a major portion of capital costs . Our vision is a n efficient, dispatchable , renewable electricity system approach that facilitates deep market penet ration of all renewable energy sources: wind, solar, and geothermal, whi le utilizing and permanently storing CO 2 in a commercially viable manner.

Adams, B.M., T.H. Kuehn, J.B. Randolph, and M.O. Saar, The reduced pumping power requirements from increasing the injection well fluid density, Transactions - Geothermal Resources Council, 37, pp. 667-672, 2013. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]The reduction of parasitic loads is a key component to the operational efficiency of geothermal power plants, which include reductions in pump power requirements. Variations in fluid den - sity, as seen in CO 2 -based geothermal plants have resulted in the elimination of pumping requirements, known as a thermosiphon; this effect, while less pronounced, is also found in traditional brine geothermal systems. Therefore, we find the reductions in pumping power requirements for traditional 20 wt% NaCl brine and CO 2 geothermal power systems by increasing the injection fluid density. For a reduction in temperature of 1°C at a 15°C surface condition, a traditional brine system was found to require up to 2kWe less pumping power. A CO 2 system in the same condition was found to require up to 42 kWe less power. When the density of the injected brine was increased by increasing the salinity of the injected fluid to 21 wt% NaCl, the injection pumping requirement decreased as much as 45 kWe. Both distillation and reverse osmosis processes were simulated to increase the salinity while producing 7 kg s -1 fresh water. The pumping power reduction does not account for the increased energy cost of salination; however, this may still be economical in locations of water scarcity

Randolph, J.B., B.M. Adams, T.H. Kuehn, and M.O. Saar, Wellbore heat transfer in CO2-based geothermal systems, Geothermal Resources Council (GRC) Transactions, 36, pp. 549-554, 2012. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]Abstract Geothermal systems utilizing carbon dioxide as the subsurface heat exchange fluid in naturally porous, permeable geologic formations have been sho wn to provide improved geothermal heat energy extraction, even at low resource temperature s, compared to conventional hydrothermal and enhanced geothermal systems (EGS). Such systems , termed CO 2 Plume Geothermal (CPG), have the potential to permit expansion of geotherma l energy use while supporting rapid implementation. While most previous analyses have f ocused on heat transfer in the reservoir and surface components of CO 2 -based geothermal operations, here we examine wellb ore heat transfer. In particular, we explore the hypothesis that wellbore flow can be assumed to be adiabatic for the majority of a CPG facility's life span.

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Saar, M.O., Geological Fluid Mechanics Models at Various Scales, Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley, 153 pp., 2003. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]In this dissertation, I employ concepts from fluid mechanics to quantitatively investigate geological processes in hydrogeology and volcanology. These research topics are addressed by utilizing numerical and analytical models but also by conducting field and lab work. Percolation theory is of interest to a wide range of physical sciences and thus warrants research in itself. Therefore, I developed a computer code to study percolation thresholds of soft-core polyhedra. Results from this research are applied to study the onset of yield strength in crystal-melt suspensions such as magmas. Implications of yield strength development in suspensions, marking the transition from Newtonian to Bingham fluid, include the pahoehoe-'a'a transition and the occurrence of effusive versus explosive eruptions. I also study interactions between volcanic processes and groundwater as well as between groundwater and seismicity (hydroseismicity). In the former case, I develop numerical and analytical models of coupled groundwater and heat transfer. Here, perturbations from a linear temperature-depth profile are used to determine groundwater flow patterns and rates. For the hydroseismicity project I investigate if seasonal elevated levels of seismicity at Mt. Hood, Oregon, are triggered by groundwater recharge. Both hydroseismicity and hydrothermal springs occur on the southern flanks of Mt. Hood. This suggests that both phenomena are related while also providing a connection between the research projects involving groundwater, heat flow, and seismicity. Indeed, seismicity may be necessary to keep faults from clogging thus allowing for sustained activity of hydrothermal springs. Finally, I present research on hydrologically induced volcanism, where a process similar to the one suggested for hydroseismicity is invoked. Here, melting of glaciers, or draining of lakes, during interglacial periods reduce the confining pressure in the subsurface which may promote dike formation and result in increased rates of volcanism. In general, problems discussed in this dissertation involve interactions among processes that are traditionally associated with separate research disciplines. However, numerous problems in the geosciences require a multidisciplinary approach, as demonstrated here. In addition, employing several analytical and numerical methods, such as signal processing, inverse theory, computer modeling, and percolation theory, allows me to study such diverse processes in a quantitative way.

Saar, M.O., The Relationship Between Permeability, Porosity, and Microstucture in Vesicular Basalts, MSc Thesis, University of Oregon, 101 pp., 1998. [Download PDF] [View Abstract]This thesis presents measurements of permeability, \(k\), porosity, \(\Phi\), and microstructural parameters of vesicular basalts. Measurements are compared with theoretical models. A percolation theory and a Kozeny-Carman model are used to interpret the measurements and to investigate relationships between porosity, microstructure, and permeability. Typical permeabilities for vesicular basalts are in the range of \(10^{-14}\) < \(k\) < \(10^{-10} m^2\). Best permeability estimates, following power laws predicted by percolation theory, are obtained when samples are used that show 'impeded aperture widening' due to rapid cooling and no bubble collapse (scoria and some flow samples). However, slowly cooled diktytaxitic samples contain elongated, 'collapsed' bubbles. Measurements indicate that the vesicle pathway network remains connected and preserves high permeabilities. Image-analysis techniques are unsuccessful if used for Kozeny-Carman equation parameter determination for vesicular materials, probably because the average interbubble aperture size that determines \(k\) is not resolved with such a technique.