Induced Seismicity at the UK "Hot Dry Rock" Test Site for Geothermal Energy Production

Jack Li, Ian Main, Andrew Jupe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), fluid is injected at high pressure in order to stimulate fracturing and/or fluid flow through otherwise relatively impermeable underlying hot rocks to generate power and/or heat. The stimulation induces micro-earthquakes whose precise triggering mechanism and relationship to new and pre-existing fracture networks are still the subject of some debate. Here we analyse the dataset for induced micro-earthquakes at the UK “hot dry rock” experimental geothermal site (Rosemanowes, Cornwall). We quantify the evolution of several metrics used to characterise induced seismicity, including the seismic strain partition factor and the “seismogenic index”. The results show a low strain partition factor of 0.01% and a low seismogenenic index indicating that aseismic processes dominate. We also analyse the spatio-temporal distribution of hypocentres, using simple models for the evolution of hydraulic diffusivity by (a) isotropic and (b) anisotropic pore-pressure relaxation. The principal axes of the diffusivity or permeability tensor inferred from the spatial distribution of earthquake foci are aligned parallel to the present-day stress field, although the maximum permeability is vertical, whereas the maximum principal stress is horizontal. Our results are consistent with a triggering mechanism that involves (a) seismic shear slip along optimally-oriented pre-existing fractures, (b) a large component of aseismic slip with creep (c) activation of tensile fractures as hydraulic conduits created by both the present-day stress field and by the induced shear slip, both exploiting pre-existing joint sets exposed in borehole data.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2018


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