The total subsidence at the Wairakei field as a result of 50 years of geothermal fluid extraction is 15 ?? 0.5 m. Subsidence rates in the center of the subsidence bowl have decreased from over 450 mm/year during the 1970s to 80-90 mm/year during 2000-2007. The location of the bowl, adjacent to the original liquid outflow zone of the field, has not changed significantly. Subsidence at the Tauhara field due to Wairakei production was not as well documented in the early years but appeared later and has been less intense than at Wairakei. Total subsidence of 2.6 ?? 0.5 m has also occurred close to the original liquid outflow zone of this field, and maximum subsidence rates in this area today are in the 80-100 mm/year range. In the western part of the Wairakei field, near the area of hot upflow, subsidence rates have approximately doubled during the last 20 years to 30-50 mm/year. This increase appears to be have been caused by declining pressure in the underlying steam zone in this area, which is tapped by some production wells. At Tauhara field, two areas of subsidence have developed since the 1990s with rates of 50-65 mm/year. Although less well-determined, this subsidence may also be caused by declining pressure in shallow steam zones. The cause of the main subsidence bowls in the Wairakei-Tauhara geothermal system is locally high-compressibility rocks within the Huka Falls Formation (HFF), which are predominantly lake sediments and an intervening layer of pumice breccia. At Wairakei, casing deformation suggests the greatest compaction is at 150-200 m depth. The cause of the large compressibility is inferred to be higher clay content in the HFF due to intense hydrothermal alteration close to the natural fluid discharge areas. Future subsidence is predicted to add an additional 2-4 m to the Wairakei bowl, and 1-2 m elsewhere, but these estimates depend on the assumed production-injection scenarios.
Additional publication details
Update on subsidence at the Wairakei-Tauhara geothermal system, New Zealand