The impact of natural fractures on heat extraction from tight Triassic sandstones in the West Netherlands Basin: A case study combining well, seismic and numerical data

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Abstract

The positive impact that natural fractures can have on geothermal heat production from low-permeability reservoirs has become increasingly recognised and proven by subsurface case studies. In this study, we assess the potential impact of natural fractures on heat extraction from the tight Lower Buntsandstein Subgroup targeted by the recently drilled NLW-GT-01 well (West Netherlands Basin (WNB)). We integrate: (1) reservoir property characterisation using petrophysical analysis and geostatistical inversion, (2) image-log and core interpretation, (3) large-scale seismic fault extraction and characterisation, (4) Discrete Fracture Network (DFN) modelling and permeability upscaling, and (5) fluid-flow and temperature modelling. First, the results of the petrophysical analysis and geostatistical inversion indicate that the Volpriehausen has almost no intrinsic porosity or permeability in the rock volume surrounding the NLW-GT-01 well. The Detfurth and Hardegsen sandstones show better reservoir properties. Second, the image-log interpretation shows predominately NW-SE-orientated fractures, which are hydraulically conductive and show log-normal and negative-power-law behaviour for their length and aperture, respectively. Third, the faults extracted from the seismic data have four different orientations: NW-SE, N-S, NE-SW and E-W, with faults in proximity to the NLW-GT-01 having a similar strike to the observed fractures. Fourth, inspection of the reservoir-scale 2D DFNs, upscaled permeability models and fluid-flow/temperature simulations indicates that these potentially open natural fractures significantly enhance the effective permeability and heat production of the normally tight reservoir volume. However, our modelling results also show that when the natural fractures are closed, production values are negligible. Furthermore, because active well tests were not performed prior to the abandonment of the Triassic formations targeted by the NLW-GT-01, no conclusive data exist on whether the observed natural fractures are connected and hydraulically conductive under subsurface conditions. Therefore, based on the presented findings and remaining uncertainties, we propose that measures which can test the potential of fracture-enhanced permeability under subsurface conditions should become standard procedure in projects targeting deep and potentially fractured geothermal reservoirs.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere6
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalGeologie en Mijnbouw/Netherlands Journal of Geosciences
Volume100
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • fracture networks
  • geothermal energy
  • temperature modelling
  • West Netherlands Basin

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