Rearrangement of stresses in fault zones – detecting major issues of coupled hydraulic–mechanical processes with relevance to geothermal applications
The South German Molasse Basin provides favourable conditions for geothermal plants. Nevertheless, micro-seismic events occur in the vicinity of the geothermal Unterhaching Gt2 well and seem to be caused by the geothermal plant.
The injection and production are located in an existing fault system. The majority of seismic events takes place at a horizontal distance of 500 m or less of the borehole. However, none of the seismic events are located in the injection reservoir but in fact at a significantly greater depth. A deeper process understanding of the interacting thermal–hydraulic–mechanical effects in the vicinity of the well is desired.
This article presents a significantly simplified 2-D model, investigating interactions of the stress field in the vicinity of the geothermal well and movements in the fault system. This might be of special interest, as the operation of the geothermal plant might lead to changes in the material and fracture properties on the one hand and in the equilibrium state on the other. A detailed description of the model, as well as various parameter studies, is presented. It can be seen that boundary conditions such as direction of the stress field in relation to the fault system, geometry of the fault system and parameters of the fractures have a significant influence on stresses in the proximity of the geothermal well. A variation in the spatial stress field in some parts of the fault system is to be expected. For the chosen assumptions the dimension of this variation is about 25% of the assumed stresses. Future work on this model might focus on the characteristics of the fault system, as well as on the influence of the coupled thermal–hydraulic–mechanical effects.