Issues in Geothermal Reservoir Engineering, Modeling, and Numerical Simulation
John W. Pritchett
The theoretical basis of geothermal reservoir engineering owes much of its origins to the oil and gas industries, but important differences in resource character and geological setting have resulted in substantial divergences from reservoir simulation as practiced in the petroleum industry. Geothermal reservoirs are hotter, contain different fluids, and are usually found within fractured volcanic formations with little or no intergranular permeability. Fluid flow takes place through an intricate fracture network which penetrates the otherwise impermeable rock. By their very nature, oil and gas fields prior to production are usually static (little or no natural fluid circulation) whereas, by contrast, the presence of a dynamic active natural convective circulation system i an essential prerequisite to the formation of a geothermal reservoir--otherwise, the earth's heat cannot penetrate upward to drillable depths. Geothermal reservoirs usually lack the regular sub-horizontal stratification pattern typical of oilfields. The resource sought (heat) is mainly contained within the mass of the rock, so that the geothermal brines serve as working fluids to redistribute this heat within the reservoir and carry it upward. During exploitation, flow rates are necessarily high (the economic value per unit mass of hot brine is vastly less than that of oil), and the objective is to create an artificial circulation system using production and injection wells to mine energy from the reservoir by cooling the rock. These phenomenological differences have resulted in develop ent of new techniques of reservoir modeling and simulation for geothermal applications.
AAPG Search and Discover Article #91019©1996 AAPG Convention and Exhibition 19-22 May 1996, San Diego, California