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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/se-2019-156
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/se-2019-156
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 18 Nov 2019

Submitted as: research article | 18 Nov 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Solid Earth (SE).

Potential influence of overpressurized gas on the induced seismicity in the St. Gallen deep geothermal project (Switzerland)

Dominik Zbinden, Antonio Pio Rinaldi, Tobias Diehl, and Stefan Wiemer Dominik Zbinden et al.
  • Swiss Seismological Service, ETH Zurich, Switzerland

Abstract. In July 2013, the city of St. Gallen conducted a deep geothermal project that aimed to exploit energy for district heating and generating power. A few days after an injection test and two acid stimulations that caused only minor seismicity, a gas kick forced the operators to inject drilling mud to combat the kick. Subsequently, multiple earthquakes were induced on a fault several hundred meters away from the well, including a ML 3.5 event that was felt throughout the nearby population centers. Given the occurrence of a gas kick and a felt seismic sequence with low total injected fluid volumes (~ 1200 m3), the St. Gallen deep geothermal project represents a particularly interesting case study of induced seismicity. Here, we first present a conceptual model based on seismic, borehole and seismological data suggesting a hydraulic connection between the well and the fault. The overpressurized gas, which is assumed to be initially sealed by the fault, may have been released due to the stimulations before entering the well via the hydraulic connection. We test this hypothesis with a numerical model calibrated against the borehole pressure of the injection test. We successfully reproduce the gas kick and the temporal and spatial characteristics of the main seismicity sequence that followed the well control operation. The results indicate that the gas may have destabilized the fault during and after the injection operations and could have enhanced the resulting seismicity. This study may have important implications for future deep hydrothermal projects conducted in similar geological conditions.

Dominik Zbinden et al.
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Dominik Zbinden et al.
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Modeling output data used in publication "Potential influence of overpressurized gas on the induced seismicity in the St. Gallen deep geothermal project (Switzerland)" D. Zbinden and A. Pio Rinaldi https://doi.org/10.3929/ethz-b-000369225

Dominik Zbinden et al.
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Short summary
The deep geothermal project in St. Gallen, Switzerland, aimed at generating electricity and heat. The fluid pumped into the underground caused hundreds of small earthquakes and one larger one perceived by the local people. Here we use computer simulations to study the physical processes that led to the earthquakes. We find that gas present in the subsurface could have enhanced the seismicity. This may have implications for future geothermal projects conducted in similar geological conditions.
The deep geothermal project in St. Gallen, Switzerland, aimed at generating electricity and...
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