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Machine learning to identify geologic factors associated with production in geothermal fields: A case-study using 3D geologic data, Brady geothermal field, Nevada

June 30, 2021

In this paper, we present an analysis using unsupervised machine learning (ML) to identify the key geologic factors that contribute to the geothermal production in Brady geothermal field. Brady is a hydrothermal system in northwestern Nevada that supports both electricity production and direct use of hydrothermal fluids. Transmissive fluid-flow pathways are relatively rare in the subsurface, but are critical components of hydrothermal systems like Brady and many other types of fluid-flow systems in fractured rock. Here, we analyze geologic data with ML methods to unravel the local geologic controls on these pathways. The ML method, non-negative matrix factorization with k-means clustering (NMFk), is applied to a library of 14 3D geologic characteristics hypothesized to control hydrothermal circulation in the Brady geothermal field. Our results indicate that macro-scale faults and a local step-over in the fault system preferentially occur along production wells when compared to injection wells and non-productive wells. We infer that these are the key geologic characteristics that control the through-going hydrothermal transmission pathways at Brady. Our results demonstrate: (1) the specific geologic controls on the Brady hydrothermal system and (2) the efficacy of pairing ML techniques with 3D geologic characterization to enhance the understanding of subsurface processes.