Report on deep hole drilling in geothermal energy projects, associated environmental perspectives and risk management

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Title: Report on deep hole drilling in geothermal energy projects, associated environmental perspectives and risk management
Editor: Uski, Marja; Piipponen, Kaiu
Publisher: Institute of Seismology, University of Helsinki
Date: 2020-04
Language: en
Belongs to series: Report S-70
ISBN: 978-952-10-9601-3
ISSN: 0357-3060
Abstract: Abstract This report is intended to serve as background material for authorities monitoring and permitting geothermal plants and their environmental impacts. Geothermal energy is a renewable energy source extracted from bedrock. Extraction of heat from old and cold Finnish bedrock is challenging and requires new technological solutions. One of the prerequisites for building a geothermal plant is deep drilling, and in some cases hydraulic stimulation, which may entail a seismic risk requiring special measures. Other factors to be considered are the safety of water bodies and groundwater areas, as well as processing of the drilling and fluid wastes during construction and production phases. This report was commissioned and funded by the Ministry of the Environment. It is written by experts from the Institute of Seismology and the Geological Survey of Finland. The aim of the report is to describe the problems and potential risks associated with deep drillholes and their usage in geothermal energy supply. The report provides permit authorities with recommendations on good practices and guidelines on permitting of the different phases of geothermal energy projects following Land Use and Building Act (132/1999). These recommendations are not binding. The first three sections of the report provide information on seismic activity and seismic monitoring in Finland, the different forms of geothermal energy and lessons learned in projects carried out in Finland by 2019. The fourth section focuses on the risk management of induced seismicity. It includes basic information on the mechanisms of induced seismicity, ground motions, risk analysis and the seismic monitoring of plants. The earthquake risk associated with a geothermal plant is at its highest when the water permeability of the bedrock is improved via hydraulic stimulation during the construction of the plant. During this phase, operations should be especially closely monitored. The fifth and sixth sections of the report provide recommendations concerning the content of permit applications, communications and the monitoring of operations. The permit application should include a seismic risk assessment of the plant area and its surroundings as well as the other potential environmental impacts of the power plant. It should also include plans for seismic monitoring, environmental monitoring, work site arrangements, drilling technique, the monitoring of operations and communications. Following lifecycle of the plant, the recommendations of the monitoring of operations are divided into three phases: the construction phase (including drilling and stimulation), the production phase and follow-up monitoring. Each phase is further divided into seismic monitoring and other environmental monitoring. All of the recommendations are also presented as concise summaries at the end of the report.

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