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Using micro-seismicity and seismic velocities to map subsurface geologic and hydrologic structure within the Coso geothermal field, California

February 1, 2012

Geothermal reservoirs derive their capacity for fluid and heat transport in large part from faults and fractures. Micro-seismicity generated on such faults and fractures can be used to map larger fault structures as well as secondary fractures that add access to hot rock, fluid storage and recharge capacity necessary to have a sustainable geothermal resource. Additionally, inversion of seismic velocities from micro-seismicity permits imaging of regions subject to the combined effects of fracture density, fluid pressure and steam content, among other factors. We relocate 14 years of seismicity (1996-2009) in the Coso geothermal field using differential travel times and simultaneously invert for seismic velocities to improve our knowledge of the subsurface geologic and hydrologic structure. We utilize over 60,000 micro-seismic events using waveform cross-correlation to augment to expansive catalog of P- and S-wave differential travel times recorded at Coso. We further carry out rigorous uncertainty estimation and find that our results are precise to within 10s of meters of relative location error. We find that relocated micro-seismicity outlines prominent, through-going faults in the reservoir in some cases. We also find that a significant portion of seismicity remains diffuse and does not cluster into more sharply defined major structures. The seismic velocity structure reveals heterogeneous distributions of compressional (Vp) and shear (Vs) wave speed, with Vp generally lower in the main field when compared to the east flank and Vs varying more significantly in the shallow portions of the reservoir. The Vp/Vs ratio appears to outline the two main compartments of the reservoir at depths of -0.5 to 1.5 km (relative to sea-level), with a ridge of relatively high Vp/Vs separating the main field from the east flank. In the deeper portion of the reservoir this ridge is less prominent. Our results indicate that high-precision relocations of micro-seismicity can provide useful insight into: 1) prominent structural features, faults and fractures that contribute to the flow of fluid and heat in the reservoir; 2) diffuse seismicity throughout the reservoir representing fractures that likely contribute to the overall permeability, storage and heat exchange capacity of the reservoir, but which are not confined to prominent faults; and 3) seismic velocities that outline the major hydrologic compartments within the Coso geothermal field.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2012
Title Using micro-seismicity and seismic velocities to map subsurface geologic and hydrologic structure within the Coso geothermal field, California
DOI
Authors Joern Ole Kaven, Stephen H. Hickman, Nicholas C. Davatzes
Publication Type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Series Title
Series Number
Index ID 70157554
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earthquake Science Center

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