Integrated Geologic and Geophysical Approach for Establishing Geothermal Play Fairways and Discovering Blind Geothermal Systems in the Great Basin Region, Western USA: A Progress Report

James Faulds, Nicholas Hinz, Mark Coolbaugh, Lisa Shevenell, Drew Siler, Craig dePolo, William Hammond, Corne Kreemer, G. Oppliger, P. Wannamaker, John. Queen

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

    16 Scopus Citations


    We have undertaken an integrated geologic, geochemical, and geophysical study of a broad 240-km-wide, 400-km-long transect stretching from west-central to eastern Nevada in the Great Basin region of the western USA. The main goal of this study is to produce a comprehensive geothermal potential map that incorporates up to 11 parameters and identifies geothermal play fairways that represent potential blind or hidden geothermal systems. Our new geothermal potential map incorporates: 1) heat flow; 2) geochemistry from springs and wells; 3) structural setting; 4) recency of faulting; 5) slip rates on Quaternary faults; 6) regional strain rate; 7) slip and dilation tendency on Quaternary faults; 8) seismologic data; 9) gravity data; 10) magnetotelluric data (where available); and 11) seismic reflection data (primarily from the Carson Sink and Steptoe basins). The transect is respectively anchored on its western and eastern ends by regional 3D modeling of the Carson Sink and Steptoe basins, which will provide more detailed geothermal potential maps of these two promising areas. To date, geological, geochemical, and geophysical data sets have been assembled into an ArcGIS platform and combined into a preliminary predictive geothermal play fairway model using various statistical techniques. The fairway model consists of the following components, each of which are represented in grid-cell format in ArcGIS and combined using specified weights and mathematical operators: 1) structural component of permeability; 2) regional-scale component of permeability; 3) combined permeability, and 4) heat source model. The preliminary model demonstrates that the multiple data sets can be successfully combined into a comprehensive favorability map. An initial evaluation using known geothermal systems as benchmarks to test interpretations indicates that the preliminary modeling has done a good job assigning relative ranks of geothermal potential. However, a major challenge is defining logical relative rankings of each parameter and how best to combine the multiple data sets into the geothermal potential/ permeability map. Ongoing feedback and data analysis are in use to revise the grouping and weighting of some parameters in order to develop a more robust, optimized, final model. The final product will incorporate more parameters into a geothermal potential map than any previous effort in the region and may serve as a prototype to develop comprehensive geothermal potential maps for other regions.
    Original languageAmerican English
    Number of pages10
    StatePublished - 2015
    EventGeothermal Resources Council 2015 Annual Meeting - Reno, Nevada
    Duration: 20 Sep 201523 Sep 2015


    ConferenceGeothermal Resources Council 2015 Annual Meeting
    CityReno, Nevada

    NREL Publication Number

    • NREL/CP-66421


    • geostatistics
    • geothermal potential map
    • Great Basin
    • Nevada
    • play fairway
    • structural setting


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