The Necessity for Iteration in the Application of Numerical Simulation to EGS: Examples from the EGS Collab Test Bed 1

Henry Johnston, Mark White, Tim Johnson, Pengcheng Fu, Hui Wu, Ahmad Ghassemi, Jianrong Lu, Hai Huang, Hari Neupane, Curt Oldenburg, Christine Doughty, Philip Winterfeld, Ryan Pollyea, Richard Jayne, Adam Hawkins, Yuran Zhang

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 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 reviews specific numerical simulations supporting the design of experiments within Test Bed 1, a volume of phyllite rock under in-situ stress conditions off the western side of the West Access Drift on the 4850 Level, near Governor's Corner. Numerical simulations were executed prior to the start of hydraulic stimulation activities within Test Bed 1 following standard practices, using best estimates of principal stress conditions, thermal conditions, and the rock petrophysical properties, including geomechanical properties. These simulations indicated notching of the borehole would promote the initiation of transverse fractures, seismic magnitudes during the hydraulic stimulation would be below 0.1 magnitude on the Richter scale, a rock thermal conductivity of 5.0 W/m K yielded agreement with kISMET borehole temperature logs, back pressure on the production borehole would increase circulation across the test bed, and the production borehole would serve to halt propagation of the hydraulic fracture to the drift. Pre-existing natural fractures, heterogeneities in the rock properties, monitoring boreholes, and overlooked mine elements have prompted a second look at numerically modeling stimulation, fluid circulation, tracer migration, and thermal breakthrough. Numerical simulation is an invaluable tool for providing insight and understanding to complex physical processes. The success of simulations, however, often depends on including all of the salient features of the system in the founding conceptual model. This paper takes a retrospective look at examples where the conceptual model and simulation was sufficient to provide accurate forecasts and those where elements were missing, necessitating rethinking of the simulation.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages17
StatePublished - 2019
Event44th Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering - Stanford, California
Duration: 11 Feb 201913 Feb 2019


Conference44th Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering
CityStanford, California

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-5500-73144


  • EGS Collab
  • enhanced geothermal systems
  • hydraulic fracture
  • meso-scale experiment
  • natural fracture
  • numerical simulation
  • Sanford Underground Research Facility
  • THMC modeling


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