Shallow Geothermal Potential of the Snake River Plain

Date and Time
October 22, 2020 02:30 PM (PDT)–03:30 PM (PDT)

The Snake River Plain (SRP) terrestrial heat flow and subsurface thermal regime are not well understood but are important for assessing the local geothermal resource potential, both for conventional and for Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) development in the region. Resource evaluation for the SRP is complicated by the disparate data density, along with the known lateral advection of heat in the Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer and vertical heat transport by fluids in the bounding faults, primarily in the southwestern section. Fortunately, recent studies, e.g., the Snake River Plain Play Fairway Analysis, the Idaho FORGE site, and site-specific investigations, which included drilling within the Camas Prairie and on the Mountain Home Air Force Base, near Twin Falls, and in the Eastern Snake River Plain as part of the HOTSPOT Project, add both additional drilling and geophysical data. The SMU Geothermal Laboratory has conducted detailed studies of SRP tectonics and heat flow since the 1970’s and used this knowledge as part of the EGS geothermal potential estimation for the conterminous United States in 2006 and again in 2011, calculating geothermal potential from 3.5 km to 10 km depth. Recent temperature modeling refined the calculation methodology to estimate shallow (1 km to 4 km) resource potential using an improved thermal conductivity model and incorporation of shallow groundwater flow. By incorporating the new SRP geology, geophysics, and 207 thermal data sites with the SMU thermal modeling methodology, this project updates the resource estimate for the SRP, and generates new temperature-at-depth maps for the shallow subsurface (1 km to 4 km). The project results highlight the EGS potential resource areas (≥150°C) and areas with more exploration risks based on minimal and/or low-quality data. The newest temperature modeling results suggest EGS potential is near five times greater in the SRP than previously estimated.

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