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Our Research Program 2021-2027

Subtopic 8.3 "Integrating Geoenergy and Mineral Systems"

Strong synergies exist between the ST8.1 Geoenergy and ST8.2 Raw Materials because essentially the same processes and interactions control the distribution of energy and metal resources in the Earth system and the research approaches in both fields are highly complementary. For example, geothermal energy infrastructure provides samples of deep hydrothermal fluids that are direct analogs for ore-forming fluids in ancient magmatic and hydrothermal systems. Ancient ore-forming systems record the long-term effects of fluid-rock interaction, which provide important constraints on aspects of geothermal energy production (e.g., scaling in geothermal wells) and the search for safe, long-term repositories for energy or radioactive waste (e.g., development of fractured reservoirs).

In ST 8.3 we integrate research on i) the geodynamics and structural controls on the distribution of energy and raw material resources in the crust, ii) the physical, chemical, and biological processes and their interactions that control the formation of resources, iii) the development of next-generation technologies for the detection, delineation and monitoring.

Geodynamic drivers of energy and mineral systems like plate tectonics play a key role in energy and mass transfer within the Earth and controls the regional-scale distribution of resources. ST8.3 aims to identify crustal architecture and fault systems that control melt and fluid pathways and thereby provide a 4D-framework for integrating plate-boundary processes (magmatism, deformation, uplift and sedimentation) into mineral and energy system models. One focus of our research is to quantify the capacity of large-scale sedimentary basins for ore formation, geothermal energy, and storage of mineral and energy wastes which is directly linked to their geodynamic history, including far-field and near-field stresses, thermal regimes, and the development of heterogeneous physical rock properties. These data are critical for assessing potential risks in different systems, e.g., induced seismicity in response to reservoir utilization, thermal variation, and the long-term stability of repositories for nuclear waste.

Coupled Interactions of thermo-hydro-mechanical-chemical processes act over a large range of temporal and spatial scales and control the formation of energy and raw material resources. ST8.3 aims to develop new system models that integrate coupling, feedback and cascading effects into conventional THMC models of fluid flow, reactive transport and permeability evolution. This includes studying the role of organic-inorganic and microbial interactions, which can be particularly important for the formation of mineral and energy resources in sedimentary basins, and for developing strategies for energy production and storage potential.

Advanced Technologies for analysis and discovery are required to extract maximum value from the resources and to safeguard against the negative impacts of exploitation. In ST8.3, we advance technological applications on several fronts: i) fiber-optic distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) for real-time monitoring, imaging of the underground and exploration of geothermal and mineral systems, ii) multi-parameter sensor systems for exploration, assessment, and monitoring of deep geothermal and mineral resources, iii) analytical and experimental laboratories on-site and in the field, iv) underground research labs, v) advanced data concepts.

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