Causes of abundant calcite scaling in geothermal wells in the Bavarian Molasse Basin, Southern Germany

Wanner, Christoph; Eichinger, Florian; Jahrfeld, Thomas; Diamond, Larryn William (2017). Causes of abundant calcite scaling in geothermal wells in the Bavarian Molasse Basin, Southern Germany. Geothermics, 70, pp. 324-338. Elsevier 10.1016/j.geothermics.2017.05.001

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The carbonate-dominated Malm aquifer in the Bavarian Molasse Basin in Southern Germany is being widely exploited and explored for geothermal energy. Despite favorable reservoir conditions, the use of geothermal wells for heat and power production is highly challenging. The main difficulty, especially in boreholes >3000 m deep with temperatures >120 °C, is that substantial amounts of calcite scales are hindering the proper operation of the pumps within the wells and of the heat exchangers at the surface. To elucidate the causes of scaling we present an extensive geochemical dataset from the geothermal plant in Kirchstockach. Based on chemical analyses of wellhead water samples, chemical and mineralogical analyses of scales collected along the uppermost 800 m of the production well, and chemical analyses of gas inclusions trapped in calcite-scale crystals, four processes are evaluated that could promote calcite scaling. These are (i) decompression of the produced fluid between the reservoir and the wellhead, (ii) corrosion of the casing that drives pH increase and subsequent calcite solubility decrease, (iii) gas influx from the geothermal reservoir and subsequent stripping of CO2 from the aqueous fluid, and (iv) boiling within the geothermal well. The effectiveness of the four scenarios was assessed by performing geochemical speciation calculations using the codes TOUGHREACT and CHILLER, which explicitly simulate boiling of aqueous fluids (CHILLER) and take into account the pressure dependence of calcite solubility (TOUGHREACT). The results show that process i causes notable calcite supersaturation but cannot act as the sole driver for scaling, whereas ii and iii are negligible in the present case. In contrast, process iv is consistent with all the available observations. That is, scaling is controlled by the exsolution of CO2 upon boiling at the markedly sub-hydrostatic pressure of 4–6 bar within the production well. This process is confirmed by the visible presence of gas inclusions in the calcite scales above the downhole pump, where the production fluid should nominally have been in the homogeneous liquid state. Whereas minor calcite scaling may have been triggered by fluid decompression within the production well, we conclude that the abundant scaling along the pump casing is due to cavitation induced by operating the pump at high production rates.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences > Rock-Water Interaction

UniBE Contributor:

Wanner, Christoph and Diamond, Larryn William

Subjects:

500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology

ISSN:

0375-6505

Publisher:

Elsevier

Language:

English

Submitter:

Christoph Wanner

Date Deposited:

06 Nov 2017 08:35

Last Modified:

31 Aug 2020 11:57

Publisher DOI:

10.1016/j.geothermics.2017.05.001

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.103430

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/103430

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