Abstract

Fracture systems are important pathways for fluid and solute transport and exert a critical influence on the hydraulic properties of aquifers and reservoirs. Therefore, detailed knowledge of fracture locations, connections, and evolution is crucial for both groundwater and energy applications (e.g., enhanced geothermal, oil and gas recovery, carbon sequestration, and wastewater injection). The innovative combination of distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) and ambient seismic noise techniques has the potential to detect and characterize fracture systems at high-spatial and temporal resolution without an active source. To test this, we conducted a multiphysics field experiment at Blue Canyon Dome, New Mexico. A novel energetic material developed by Sandia National Laboratories was used to generate fractures in two separate stimulations. Ambient noise was recorded before and after each stimulation using fiber-optic cables installed in the outer annulus of four boreholes surrounding the stimulation hole at a radius of 1.2 m. The Python package MSNoise was used to compute crosscorrelations and measure changes in velocity between each time period relative to the initial (prestimulation) time period. The majority of channel pairs showed a velocity reduction (average −3% relative velocity change) following both stimulations. We used a 3D Bayesian tomography approach to resolve spatial variations by utilizing differences between channel pairs. Results showed that the greatest velocity reduction was concentrated near the center of the test area and suggested the presence of a near-vertical fracture, oriented northeast to southwest for depths >19 m below ground surface and extending slightly to the southwest corner. These results were generally consistent with crosshole seismic tomography time-lapse images. DAS technology provides valuable sensing capability and — when used with a passive seismic approach — shows great promise for monitoring and characterization of fractured-rock systems.

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