Wednesday June 28, 2017
The science of hot fluids in cracked rocks Research by a Victoria University of Wellington PhD graduate has improved understanding of how underground hot fluids flow through fractured rocks, which will help in the development of geothermal energy. A study by Cécile Massiot, who graduated last month with a PhD in Geophysics, focussed on determining the nature of the cracks that control the circulation of fluids in the earth’s crust. “There are myriads of fractures underground, but a common challenge in geosciences is mapping where they are, how big they are, and which ones actually serve as pathways for fluids,” Cécile said. “Identifying the characteristics of those fractures that
guide fluids is critical for the exploration and management of geothermal renewable resources, which currently accounts for nearly a quarter of New Zealand’s electricity supply.” Cécile compared observations made at the surface of the earth where fracture systems can be seen and touched, with measurements from boreholes where data is sparse but directly representative of underground conditions. The researcher is originally from France and came to New Zealand in 2010 to work at the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS Science). For her research Cécile looked at the fracture systems in volcanic rocks found at an Alpine Fault on the West
Coast, Mount Ruapehu and the Rotokawa Geothermal Field near Taupo. “We’ve known for some time that current tectonic forces acting on New Zealand control the underground fracture systems,” Cécile said. “My results show that, in addition, the original fracture networks that formed within lava as it cooled at the earth’s surface millions of years ago, now also control the architecture of fracture systems steering geothermal fluids. “These findings will improve the use of geothermal resources, in New Zealand and overseas, and help us to better understand pressure and temperature conditions in conventional geothermal settings such as those near Taupo, and unconventional geothermal settings.”
Victoria University graduate Cécile Massiot had a closer look at the volcanic areas in New Zealand to develop an idea about how to use geothermal energy in the future. PHOTO: Supplied
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Independent Herald 28-06-17