Down-dip circulation at the united downs deep geothermal power project maximizes heat recovery and minimizes seismicity

Quan Gan, Zijun Feng, Lei Zhou, Honglian Li, Jun Liu, Derek Elsworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Fault damage zones potentially represent native permeable channels within otherwise ultra-tight igneous formations that may be used to promote fluid circulation for convective heat recovery. The United Downs Deep Geothermal Power (UDDGP) project aims to recover geothermal energy by directly injecting, circulating then recovering fluids from such a fault. The UDDGP project injects fluid into the fault at 2500 m where rock temperature is ~75 °C – 80 °C and recovers the injectate from 4500 m, where the bottom hole temperature is predicted to be 190 °C. We explore such down-dip circulation through numerical modeling to determine the anticipated temperature and longevity of the thermal recovery and the potential for induced seismicity (fault reactivation) by contrasting response for up-dip circulation. The results reveal that down-dip circulation not only maximizes water temperature and flow rate at the outlet but also simultaneously suppresses fault reactivation over the long term. In down-dip circulation, fault permeability in the critically stressed shallow fault damage zone is more greatly enhanced than that of the deep fault as a result of the strong injection-induced thermal stress. Fault sealing is breached as a result of reactivation in the shallow fault, prompting transverse fluid penetration and subsequent fluid circulation in the footwall. Switching the injection scheme from down-dip circulation to up-dip circulation, while maintaining an identical injection rate, leads to a drastic increase in the cumulative number of seismic events, with the average magnitude increasing from 1 to 2. This reversed well configuration (circulation bottom to top) also reduces power output from 6 to 7 MWthermal to 2 MWthermal, due to reduced enthalpy and flow rate in the production well. The outcomes from this study confirm the preferred design of the well pattern as circulating top to bottom, to both maximize heat recovery and limit induced seismicity. A lower production pressure is necessary to avoid pressure build-up inside the fault . Production pressure at 15–20 MPa could ensure both high cumulative power generation and a stable fault state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102204
StatePublished - Nov 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Geology


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