Improving enhanced geothermal systems performance using adaptive fracture conductivity

Faras Al Balushi, Qitao Zhang, Arash Dahi Taleghani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Maximizing heat extraction from enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) depends heavily on an efficient heat sweeping or basically an effective circulation of water through fracture networks. Fracture hydraulic conductivity can play a critical role in controlling potential thermal breakthroughs; however, the exact geometry and properties of these fractures cannot be determined in practice. Thermal breakthrough remains a main challenge for maintaining efficient heat extraction throughout the lifespan of an EGS project. In this work, we explore the concept of fracture conductivity tuning using temperature-sensitive proppants to extract more heat and delay thermal breakthrough from the particle scale to the reservoir scale. We derive an empirical equation to describe fracture conductivity as a function of proppant properties and in-situ conditions including closure stress and temperature. Sensitivity analysis are performed to determine which parameters are the most crucial in determining the temperature-sensitive proppant permeability. Temperature and thermal expansion coefficient are the main contributing factors to the change in proppant permeability. Poisson's ratio is found to have negligible impact on the proppant permeability. The derived equation is used to quantify the improvement in heat extraction from EGS at the field scale. The outcome shows that using temperature-sensitive proppant can increase the heat extracted by 47.8% compared to using typical proppant. This work assesses the feasibility of using temperature-sensitive proppants to effectively delay thermal breakthrough and sweep larger amounts of heat from EGS. In addition, this paper provides a quick and robust method to determine the required properties of such temperature-sensitive proppants to achieve uniform thermal gradient along different flow paths in the subsurface autonomously.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number121206
JournalApplied Thermal Engineering
StatePublished - Oct 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering

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