Three-dimensional geologic mapping to assess geothermal potential: Examples from Nevada and Oregon

Geothermal Energy – Science, Society and Technology
By: , and 



Geologic structure plays an important role in controlling fluid flow in geothermal systems. In particular, very complex structural settings, consisting of many closely spaced and intersecting faults, host many geothermal systems. To elucidate the key geologic factors that affect fault-controlled geothermal circulation, it is critical to precisely characterize the structural and stratigraphic geometries in these complex settings. Here, we present a methodology and the results of 3D geologic analyses of two geothermal systems in the Basin and Range, USA. This methodology is a quantitative and geologically focused technique that can be used to precisely characterize geothermal areas, in a time when future geothermal growth demands increased exploration precision and efficiency. Surficial and subsurface geologic and geophysical data are synthesized in the construction of detailed 3D geologic maps of geothermal areas. Based on these 3D geologic maps, we examine several geologic attributes that control permeability development and geothermal fluid flow along faults. We use the stress state of faults and the distribution of structural discontinuities (i.e., fault intersections and fault terminations) to identify locations of upflow along faults in these geothermal systems. These results and the methodology presented herein are directly applicable to structurally controlled geothermal fields in the Basin and Range and worldwide. As development focus shifts toward blind geothermal resources, integration of precisely characterized subsurface structural information into exploration methods will be increasingly critical to continued growth in geothermal exploration and development.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Three-dimensional geologic mapping to assess geothermal potential: Examples from Nevada and Oregon
Series title Geothermal Energy – Science, Society and Technology
DOI 10.1186/s40517-018-0117-0
Volume 7
Issue 2
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center
Description 32 p.
First page 1
Last page 32
Country United States
State Nevada, Oregon