The exploration of geothermal resources in the subsurface is challenging yet vital in the energy industry. There is huge potential in this largely untapped yet highly sustainable energy source. But there is also a great economic risk attached to it, starting at the early stage of its development. A successful geothermal exploration phase can influence the decision on the potential of the geothermal project at that location.
Precise exploration data and information gathered during the exploration phase helps shape a geothermal project. Visualizing this large volume of geothermal exploration data in a 3D viewer is one of the most efficient ways to recognize the geothermal resource in the subsurface and make an informed decision.
Need for Exploring and Characterizing the Subsurface
Any geothermal development project comes with its own set of challenges. Multiple subsurface data sources and unique geological structures add to the uncertainty in determining the geothermal potential. The geothermal exploration process in itself can be expensive and has many more unknowns than the typical onshore oil and gas exploration process. Characterizing the subsurface environment can help in addressing some of these problems. The primary objective of subsurface characterization is to provide sufficient information to determine feasible geothermal development potential.
Engineers use geoscientific (geological, geophysical, and geochemical) methods at a local and regional extent to develop a conceptual model essential for geothermal exploration. Surficial data can include geologic maps, multispectral and hyperspectral imaging, InSAR data, and LIDAR data. Gravity and magnetic surveys are performed as a part of geoscientific analysis. These surveys can be useful when determining large scale geologic structures, rock formations, subsurface layer thicknesses, and broad characteristics of the thermal reserve. These geophysical exploration methods are normally done to analyze parameters such as density and high and low anomalies. Petrophysical analysis of data acquired from well logs is useful in identifying the geothermal reserve along with information on lithology, permeability, porosity, and quality of the reservoir.
From these data, a detailed 3D model of the subsurface can be developed. This model not only examines the feasibility of the project but also helps engineers make better-informed decisions regarding the location of optimal drilling points, wellbore trajectory to maximize geothermal transfer, and performing cost-benefit analysis as they explore various reservoir design options.
Advantages of Visualizing Geothermal Exploration Data
All these data observed during the exploration phase can be integrated to create an effective 3D model. Three-dimensional visualization software provides an effective platform to visualize all the geothermal exploration data in a collaborative, interactive environment. Data visualization enhances geothermal development in the following ways:
- Helps asset teams determine optimal target location and depth of well for maximum thermal performance
- Identifies correlations between different geospatial data that influence plant design and performance
- Leverages isothermal and flow data to assist in forecasting the future reservoir performance
- Allows for multi-modelling in an effort to reduce errors, and determine the optimum model
- Enhances communication and collaboration across teams via sharing of discipline-specific data
- Examines other potential geothermal reserves with help of a large volume of local and regional exploration data
Visualizing Geothermal Exploration Data with Coviz 4D
CoViz 4D can be used to visualize large volumes of geothermal exploration data. The software integrates complex exploration data from different geoscientific disciplines, obtained through surface study, geophysical surveys and logging, and can be used to create a detailed geological model. It also allows for the integration of pre-existing geophysical data from various legacy sources into the system. This integration of old and new data can prove to be important in identifying further geothermal potential.
A successful geothermal development project requires a large amount of data from multiple disciplines and collaborative analysis and interpretation to progress from one phase to another. Drilling activity requires a large amount of capital and operational outlay and companies can be hesitant without credible data. CoViz 4D, data visualization and integration software allows for the comprehensive analysis of data and the development of a 3D geological model that can be easy to understand by technical as well as non-technical stakeholders. With geothermal exploration data transformed into detailed 3D models, CoViz 4D superbly visualizes subsurface characteristics and allows asset teams to make informed development decisions as well as predictions for future reservoir behavior. Based on this information, investors, drilling engineers, and geoscientists will find it significantly easier to confidently make capital- and design-related decisions regarding geothermal resources.
Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock