Cover Image


View/Hide Left Panel

to flow more freely through the subsurface rock. The location of the new fractures can be determined by monitoring the microseismic response at the surface or downhole.

The history of the development of EGS projects in the United States began near the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico during the 1970s. That project provided a base for gaining experience in conducting hydraulic fracturing operations at high temperatures in low-permeability crystalline rocks. Data from this project have led to a series of similar EGS experiments in England, France, Germany, and Japan, followed more recently in Australia, Sweden, and Switzerland. In each case of active EGS development some induced seismicity has been registered. One recent example in Basel, Switzerland, generated an increased level of public awareness of the existence of induced seismicity (Box 3.3).

This Basel incident has become one of the best-known international induced seismic case studies, not because of local damage (which was minimal) but because of the immediate negative impact to the project due to the risk liability of induced seismicity. The urban setting for the project combined with the fact that this region is tectonically unstable and with a history of natural seismicity proved decisive in the project being terminated.

The occurrence of some post-shut-in seismicity at Basel and at another EGS project in Soultz-sous-Forêts, France, is a phenomenon that is not yet completely understood and can create added concern from the public standpoint in that some events are beyond the control of the operator. Understanding these post-shut-in events involves development of subsurface models with numerical simulations that can track the progress of the injected fluids through the rock and can calculate potential for further seismic activity. Development of coupled reservoir fluid flow and geomechanical simulation codes has been suggested as a way to advance this understanding (Majer et al., 2007) and may also have an impact on understanding post-shut-in phenomena related to other energy technologies (see also below).


In a conventional oil or gas reservoir, the reservoir rocks are generally pressurized above hydrostatic pressure due to compaction of sedimentary rocks over geologic time. The use of the term “reservoir” is common but may be misleading: the gas or oil does not exist in a single, large pool in the rocks, but in the pores of a rock formation. Compaction reduces the naturally occurring pore space in the rock (reduces the porosity) and either displaces reservoir fluids (hydrocarbons and water) or increases the pressure in the reservoir, or both. When penetrated by a well bore with the aid of pumping, fluids in the pressurized layer flow to the surface until the pressure in the reservoir is reduced to hydrostatic pressure. The reduction in pressure also causes gas to come out of the fluid, much like a bottle of soda when the cap is removed. The released gas can also help to drive the oil to the surface until the pressure is reduced to hydrostatic conditions.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement