May 26, 2023
Conference Paper

Advancing Geophysical Techniques to Image a Stratigraphic Hydrothermal Resource


Sedimentary-hosted geothermal energy systems are permeable structural, structural-stratigraphic, and/or stratigraphic horizons with sufficient temperature for direct use and/or electricity generation. Sedimentary-hosted (i.e., stratigraphic) geothermal reservoirs may be present in multiple locations across the central and eastern Great Basin of the USA, thereby constituting a potentially large base of untapped, economically accessible energy resources. Sandia National Laboratories has partnered with a multi disciplinary group of collaborators to evaluate a stratigraphic system in Steptoe Valley, Nevada using both established and novel geophysical imaging techniques. The goal of this study is to inform an optimized strategy for subsequent exploration and development of this resource and analogous ones. Building from prior Nevada Play Fairway Analysis (PFA), this team is primarily 1) collecting additional geophysical data, 2) employing novel joint geophysical inversion/modeling techniques to update existing 3D geologic models, and 3) integrating the geophysical results to produce a working, geologically constrained thermo-hydrological reservoir model. Prior PFA work highlights Steptoe Valley as a favorable resource basin that likely has both sedimentary and hydrothermal characteristics. However, there remains significant uncertainty on the nature and architecture of the resource(s) at depth, which increases the risk in exploratory drilling. Newly acquired gravity, magnetic, magnetotelluric, and controlled-source electromagnetic data products, in conjunction with new and preexisting geoscientific measurements and observations, are being integrated and evaluated for efficacy in understanding stratigraphic geothermal resources and mitigating exploration risk. Furthermore, the influence of hydrothermal activity on sedimentary-hosted reservoirs in favorable structural settings, and whether fault-controlled systems may locally enhance temperature and permeability in some deep stratigraphic reservoirs, will also be evaluated.

Published: May 26, 2023


Schwering P.C., C.L. Winn, P. Jaysaval, H.A. Knox, D.L. Siler, C. Hardwick, and B.F. Ayling, et al. 2022. Advancing Geophysical Techniques to Image a Stratigraphic Hydrothermal Resource. In Geothermal Rising Conference: Using the Earth to Save the Earth (GRC 2022), August 18-31, 2022, Reno, NV. Transactions - Geothermal Resources Council, 976 - 991. Davis, California:Geothermal Resources Council. PNNL-SA-174160.

Research topics