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Exploratory analysis of machine learning techniques in the Nevada geothermal play fairway analysis

March 14, 2023

Play fairway analysis (PFA) is commonly used to generate geothermal potential maps and guide exploration studies, with a particular focus on locating and characterizing blind geothermal systems. This study evaluates the application of machine learning techniques to PFA in the Great Basin region of Nevada. Following the evaluation of various techniques, we identified two approaches to PFA that produced promising results, 1) supervised Bayesian probabilistic neural networks to generate geothermal potential maps with confidence intervals, and 2) unsupervised principal component analysis paired with k-means clustering to generate both cluster maps to help identify spatial patterns, as well as new combined feature inputs. We applied these techniques to perform a comparative analysis between two principal sets of geological and geophysical features related to permeability and heat and a set of positive (known geothermal resources) and negative training sites (known drill sites with unsuitable geothermal conditions). We found that these methods constrain previously unrecognized feature controls on geothermal favorability, many of which are spatially organized within the extent of cluster groups and the major structural-hydrologic domains of the study area. Furthermore, we utilized exploratory unsupervised modeling to highlight spatial relationships between input data and predictive output results of our supervised modeling. Finally, we demonstrate how our models compare to the previous Nevada PFA and how the rapid insights these machine learning techniques offer may support future assessments of both known and undiscovered blind geothermal systems in the Great Basin region of Nevada and beyond.

Publication Year 2023
Title Exploratory analysis of machine learning techniques in the Nevada geothermal play fairway analysis
DOI 10.1016/j.geothermics.2023.102693
Authors Connor M. Smith, James E. Faulds, Stephen C. Brown, Mark Coolbaugh, Jacob DeAngelo, Jonathan M.G. Glen, Erick Burns, Drew Lorenz Siler, Sven Treitel, Eli Mlawsky, Michael Fehler, Chen Gu, Bridget F. Ayling
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geothermics
Index ID 70241433
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center