Saturday, 13 April 2024

Department of Energy awards grant for research at The Geysers

THE GEYSERS – A new research project in The Geysers geothermal steamfield has received funding from the federal government.

University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering professor Fred Aminzadeh and his colleagues have won Department of Energy funding for a 3-D geothermal mapping and modeling effort.

The effort will focus on The Geysers area, a high-potential geothermal energy site straddling Lake and Sonoma counties that is already home to commercial operations.

The two-year, $1.5 million project will be carried out in collaboration with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Geysers Power Co., the operator of existing geothermal power plants in the area.

The objective is to develop new methodologies to characterize the northwestern part of the Geysers geothermal reservoir, gaining better knowledge of their porosity, permeability, fracture size, fracture spacing, reservoir discontinuities (leaky barriers) and impermeable boundaries.

The immediate focus will be creating improved methods for better characterization of fractures in an enhanced geothermal system.

“This will be accomplished by creating a 3-D seismic velocity model of the field using the micro-seismic data, collected under another Department of Energy-funded project,” said Aminzadeh, research professor in the Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and managing director of the USC Energy Institute’s Global Energy Center.

Several complementary processing approaches will be used to develop and test new techniques for data collection and analysis. The approaches include micro-seismic data analysis both for compressional and shear waves using soft computing, anisotropic inversion and fractal concepts.

“Geothermal energy is potentially an extremely important energy source, particularly for California,” said Don Paul, executive director of the USC Energy Institute. “Many of the techniques used in oil and gas well engineering are applicable to geothermal, and we look forward to the opportunity to apply this technology in a new area.”

Two other USC faculty members will contribute to the effort: Charles Sammis from the earth sciences department at USC College and Muhammad Sahimi from the Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.

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