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DNA fingerprints of subsurface microbial community for reservoir characterization

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Anne E. Dekas, Earth System Science and Roland N. Horne, Energy Resources Engineering

Increasing the energy production potential of geothermal sources will serve to diversify clean energy portfolios and counterbalance some of the limitations caused by the intermittent nature of other renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Traditional characterization of geothermal reservoirs rely on well test data and tracer data, however, both methods are limited in resolution and distance from the well that can be investigated. The goal of this project is to explore the DNA fingerprints of the indigenous microbial community of the reservoir. DNA analysis only became accessible at an economical cost in the past few years and shows promise in being able to boost the resolution and reliability of subsurface characterization. This research has the potential to add an important dimension to the understanding of the subsurface and greatly improve the resolution of reservoir characterization which guides modeling/management of assets and fracture simulation research. The application of this advancement could increase the performance of conventional geothermal reservoirs and enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) while also lending visibility into the surveying of sites before target depth is reached.  If successful, this advancement will increase revenues for geothermal energy producers, from the more productive heat extraction process, as well as reduce costs incurred to identify ideal geothermal site locations.


Stanford researchers show how geological activity rapidly changes deep microbial communities July 2022

Geological activity shapes the microbiome in deep-subsurface aquifers by advection May 2022

Microbial DNA can reveal water’s underground origins January 2020

Microbial Community Composition in Deep-Subsurface Reservoir Fluids Reveals Natural Interwell Connectivity Water Resources Research, Volume 56, Issue 2 November 2019

Awarded 2018