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GEMex: Cooperation in Geothermal energy research Europe-Mexico for development of Enhanced Geothermal Systems and Superhot Geothermal Systems

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - GEMex (GEMex: Cooperation in Geothermal energy research Europe-Mexico for development of Enhanced Geothermal Systems and Superhot Geothermal Systems)

Reporting period: 2018-04-01 to 2019-03-31

The GEMex project is a complementary effort of a European and a Mexican consortium, with the aim to speed up the development of unconventional geothermal systems. So far, the use of geothermal energy for electricity production iin Mexico s restricted to conventional geothermal systems indicated by surface manifestations such as hot springs and fumaroles, where high temperatures suitable for exploitation and electricity production are reached at relatively shallow depths. GEMex investigates two types of unconventional resources: 1) Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) where are sufficiently high temperatures are found but either the permeability of the rocks is too low or there are no geothermal fluids available at all and 2) Superhot geothermal systems (SHGS) where temperatures above 350 °C require specific safety measures for drilling and materials to withstand the harsh conditions of the fluid.
The project is based on three pillars
1. Resource assessment for the EGS site near Acoculco and for a superhot resource near Los Humeros. This part focuses on understanding the tectonic evolution, the fracture distribution and hydrogeology of the respective region, and on predicting in-situ stresses and temperatures at depth.
2. Reservoir characterization using techniques and approaches developed at conventional geothermal sites, including novel geophysical and geological methods to be tested and refined for their application at the two project sites: passive seismic data are collected to apply ambient noise correlation methods, and to study anisotropy by coupling surface and volume waves; newly collected electromagnetic data will be used for joint inversion with the seismic data. For the interpretation of these data, high-pressure/ high-temperature laboratory experiments are performed to derive the parameters determined on rock samples from Mexico or equivalent materials.
3. Concepts for Site Development: all existing and newly collected information will be applied to define drill paths, to recommend a design for well completion including suitable material selection, and to investigate optimum stimulation and operation procedures for safe and economic exploitation with control of undesired side effects. These steps include appropriate measures and recommendations for public acceptance and outreach as well as for the monitoring and control of environmental impact.
GEMex has the ambition to bring together the extended Mexican know-how of discovering, developing, and deploying conventional geothermal energy systems with a variety of European expertise from superhot geothermal energy systems (Italy, Iceland etc.) and in developing EGS technology. The approach will open synergies of competencies and technologies and will lead to an acceleration of the learning curve for geothermal development which, eventually, should lead to concepts for extended future deployment of geothermal energy in Europe and Mexico.
Thanks to the great dedication and engagement of the consortium, significant progress was made towards the achievement of the objectives of GEMex. All work packages have successfully started their work. The main achievements can very roughly be summarized as follows:
• The resource assessment (SP1; WPs 3 and 4) has been started and a lot of activities, which build the basic geological knowledge on the two research sites, have been carried out. Several fieldtrips were dedicated to collecting new data and take rock, fluid and gas samples. Preliminary geological and volcanological models have been developed. The knowledge gained in this part of the project has been presented to the project partners, who will subsequently make use of the results achieved so far. The geological fieldwork as well as the modelling were both performed in collaboration with the Mexican team in an equal partnership.
• The reservoir characterization (SP2; WPs 5 and 6) has started and the necessary data are currently collected. Geophysical fieldwork in Los Humeros is currently ongoing: some data have been collected already by all geophysical methods foreseen, the survey planning for the completion of the measurements is finished, data collection will be finished within 2018 and data analysis is ongoing. Sample analysis for physical rock properties is ongoing such that these data can contribute to the reservoir model to be established in WP6. Geophysical fieldwork has benefitted from enormous support by the Mexican team, who did the major part of the geophysical field surveys, even though survey planning and data analysis are carried out in an equal partnership.
• The concept development (SP3; WPs 7 and 8) is still at the beginning and has mainly undertaken a literature review to analyse the state of the art, as well as acquisition of already existing data. Additionally, the work on social acceptance and public engagement has already started and collaboration with the Mexican team is very good, which is a prerequisite for this very sensitive part of the project activities.
• The dissemination of project results and internal communication (WP2) has been enabled and supported. Various channels of dissemination have been used to reach different target groups. Internal communication has been supported by the Virtual Research Environment, which is used by both, the Mexican and the European consortia.
By advancing the development of unconventional resources, GEMex will lead to an expansion of the resource base - making geothermal exploitation possible at more locations.
GEMex investigates superhot geothermal systems - their exploitation would lead to a significantly higher electricity generation from drilled wells such that fewer wells would need to be drilled to produce even more geothermal energy than from conventional geothermal systems. Even though there is currently no installation producing energy from such resources in the world, international interest in exploiting such economically highly promising resources has grown significantly in the last years, leading to numerous projects investigating them, for example in the Iceland Deep Drilling Project IDDP.
GEMex also develops concepts for Enhanced Geothermal Systems with the aim of making use of geothermal energy in a larger number of places. So far, EGS has been shown to work only in a few places in the world, usually at lower temperatures than those found in conventional (magmatic) geothermal systems. EGS technologies allow the usage of geothermal energy also from initially poorly productive reservoirs, thereby opening the possibility of a widespread exploitation of geothermal energy.
Geothermal site at Los Humeros, Mexico