Owing to its sensitivity to hydrothermal alteration and geothermal fluids, the distribution of subsurface electrical conductivity provides critical information for characterizing geothermal systems. For geothermal exploration, the controlled-source electromagnetic (CSEM) technique provides a crucial tool to image the subsurface resistivity structures, especially in areas with strong cultural noise. Usually, land-based CSEM surveys are carried out with dozens of operating frequencies to enhance spatial resolution. However, the 3D inversion of multifrequency CSEM data using the commonly used direct solver is challenging with limited computational resources. In this study, we implement a practical inversion strategy for interpreting 3D multifrequency CSEM data. By combining a hybrid direct-iterative solver with the inexact Gauss-Newton optimization, 3D inversion of CSEM data involving multiple frequencies can be performed effectively on typical workstations. First, we test the effectiveness of the developed approach using synthetic multifrequency 3D CSEM data generated for a simplified geothermal model. The inversion strategy is then applied to the multifrequency CSEM field data collected for the geothermal exploration at Tianzhen region in Shanxi Province, China. The comparison between the inversion results using the sparse data set (six frequencies) and the dense data set (12 frequencies) highlights the necessity of using data from more frequencies in the inversion to improve the resolution. The resulting 3D resistivity model clearly delineates the clay alteration layers and shallow thermal reservoirs of the potential high-temperature geothermal system within the study area, while its deep heat source is not revealed owing to the limited investigation depth of the survey.

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