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Industrial exploitation is causing clearly-measurable changes in Earth structure at The Geysers geothermal area, California. Production at The Geysers peaked in the late 1980s at ???3.5 ?? 103 kg s-1 of steam and 1800 MW of electricity. It subsequently decreased by about 10% per year [Barker et al., 1992] because of declining reservoir pressure. The steam reservoir coincides with a strong negative anomaly (???0.16, ???9%) in the compressional-to-shear seismic wave speed ratio vP/vS, consistent with the expected effects of low-pressure vapor-phase pore fluid [Julian et al., 1996]. Between 1991 and 1994 this anomaly increased in amplitude by up to about 0.07 (???4%). This is consistent with the expected effects of continued pressure reduction and conversion of pore water to steam as a result of exploitation. These unique results show that vP/vS tomography can easily detect saturation changes caused by exploitation of reservoirs, and is a potentially valuable technique for monitoring environmental change. They also provide geophysical observational evidence that geothermal energy is not a renewable energy source.
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Industrially induced changes in Earth structure at the geysers geothermal area, California