Seismic Technology Adapted to Analyzing and Developing Geothermal Systems Below Surface-Exposed High-Velocity Rocks - Final Report


The objective of our research was to develop and demonstrate seismic data acquisition and data processing technologies that allow geothermal prospects below high-velocity rock outcrops to be evaluated. To do this, we acquired a 3-component seismic test line across an area of exposed high-velocity rocks in Brewster County, Texas, where there is high heat flow and surface conditions mimic those found at numerous geothermal prospects. Seismic contractors have not succeeded in creating good-quality seismic data in this area for companies who have acquired data for oil and gas exploitation purposes. Our test profile traversed an area where high-velocity rocks and low-velocity sediment were exposed on the surface in alternating patterns that repeated along the test line. We verified that these surface conditions cause non-ending reverberations of Love waves, Rayleigh waves, and shallow critical refractions to travel across the earth surface between the boundaries of the fast-velocity and slow-velocity material exposed on the surface. These reverberating surface waves form the high level of noise in this area that does not allow reflections from deep interfaces to be seen and utilized. Our data acquisition method of deploying a box array of closely spaced geophones allowed us to recognize and evaluate these surface-wave noise modes regardless of the azimuth direction to the surface anomaly that backscattered the waves and caused them to return to the test-line profile.

With this knowledge of the surface-wave noise, we were able to process these test-line data to create P-P and SH-SH images that were superior to those produced by a skilled seismic data processing contractor. Compared to the P-P data acquired along the test line, the SH-SH data provided a better detection of faults and could be used to trace these faults upward to the boundaries of exposed surface rocks. We expanded our comparison of the relative value of S-wave and P-wave seismic data for geothermal applications by inserting into this report a small part of the interpretation we have done with 3C3D data across Wister geothermal field in the Imperial Valley of California. This interpretation shows that P-SV data reveal faults (and by inference, also fractures) that cannot be easily, or confidently, seen with P-P data, and that the combination of P-P and P-SV data allows VP/VS velocity ratios to be estimated across a targeted reservoir interval to show where an interval has more sandstone (the preferred reservoir facies).

The conclusion reached from this investigation is that S-wave seismic technology can be invaluable to geothermal operators. Thus we developed a strong interest in understanding the direct-S modes produced by vertical-force sources, particularly vertical vibrators, because if it can be demonstrated that direct-S modes produced by vertical-force sources can be used as effectively as the direct-S modes produced by horizontal-force sources, geothermal operators can acquire direct-S data across many more prospect areas than can be done with horizontal-force sources, which presently are limited to horizontal vibrators. We include some of our preliminary work in evaluating direct-S modes produced by vertical-force sources.


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