Numerical Simulation Applications in the Design of EGS Collab Experiment 1

Henry Johnston, Mark White, Pengcheng Fu, Ahmad Ghassemi, Hai Huang, Jonny Rutqvist

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


The United States Department of Energy, Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) is funding a collaborative investigation of enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) processes at the meso-scale. This study, referred to as the EGS Collab project, is a unique opportunity for scientists and engineers to investigate the creation of fracture networks and circulation of fluids across those networks under in-situ stress conditions. The EGS Collab project is envisioned to comprise three experiments and the site for the first experiment is on the 4850 Level (4,850 feet below ground surface) in phyllite of the Precambrian Poorman formation, at the Sanford Underground Research Facility, located at the former Homestake Gold Mine, in Lead, South Dakota. Principal objectives of the project are to develop a number of intermediate-scale field sites and to conduct well-controlled in situ experiments focused on rock fracture behavior and permeability enhancement. Data generated during these experiments will be compared against predictions of a suite of computer codes specifically designed to solve problems involving coupled thermal, hydrological, geomechanical, and geochemical processes. Comparisons between experimental and numerical simulation results will provide code developers with direction for improvements and verification of process models, build confidence in the suite of available numerical tools, and ultimately identify critical future development needs for the geothermal modeling community. Moreover, conducting thorough comparisons of models, modelling approaches, measurement approaches and measured data, via the EGS Collab project, will serve to identify techniques that are most likely to succeed at the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE), the GTO's flagship EGS research effort. As noted, outcomes from the EGS Collab project experiments will serve as benchmarks for computer code verification, but numerical simulation additionally plays an essential role in designing these meso-scale experiments. This paper describes specific numerical simulations supporting the design of Experiment 1, a field test involving hydraulic stimulation of two fractures from notched sections of the injection borehole and fluid circulation between sub-horizontal injection and production boreholes in each fracture individually and collectively, including the circulation of chilled water. Whereas the mine drift allows for accurate and close placement of monitoring instrumentation to the developed fractures, active ventilation in the drift cooled the rock mass within the experimental volume. Numerical simulations were executed to predict seismic events and magnitudes during stimulation, initial fracture orientations for smooth horizontal wellbores, pressure requirements for fracture initiation from notched wellbores, fracture propagation during stimulation between the injection and production boreholes, tracer travel times between the injection and production boreholes, produced fluid temperatures with chilled water injections, pressure limits on fluid circulation to avoid fracture growth, temperature environment surrounding the 4850 Level drift, and fracture propagation within a stress field altered by drift excavation, ventilation cooling, and dewatering.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages16
StatePublished - 2018
Event43rd Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering - Stanford, California
Duration: 12 Feb 201814 Feb 2018


Conference43rd Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering
CityStanford, California

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-5G00-71258


  • borehole notching
  • borehole orientation
  • circulation
  • EGS Collab
  • hydraulic fracture
  • meso-scale experimental design
  • numerical simulation
  • stimulation
  • THMC modeling


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