The Crustal Deformation and Fluid Flow is supported by several grants awarded from both the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF), the Swiss confederation and by the private sector. Our research focuses on the application and development of geophysical methods for the study of volcanic and geothermal systems, ore deposits and tectonically active settings such as Indonesia, Switzerland, Greece, Chile, Costa Rica, Iceland and several others. Below just a few examples of ongoing research.
SNF-funded SINERGIA - MIGRATE - A Multidisciplinary and InteGRted Approach for geoThermal Exploration
Reducing the acceleration of climatic changes is one of the greatest societal challenges of our times. The Paris climate agreement signed in 2015 mandates a progressive, yet urgent, reduction of fossil fuels accompanied by a rapid implementation of renewable energy solutions. Geothermal energy is a resource potentially available anywhere and at any time. However, its full development faces a shortage of subsurface knowledge that makes potential projects undergo inconveniently high economic and geological risks. Research can support the growth of the geothermal sector, and hence the energetic transition, by providing innovative, reliable and affordable exploration methods to reduce subsurface uncertainty. MIGRATE is a multidisciplinary project articulated around the three distinct and yet complementary domains of geology, seismology and machine learning. The goal of MIGRATE is to streamline passive seismic exploration procedures by developing new analysis methods that remove human bias, have significantly increased reproducibility and reliability, while addressing relevant scientific questions. This will result in the development of an automatised end-to-end tool to prospect the upper crust and identify potential geothermal targets.The study is organised across 6 integrated tasks that will progress by reaching multiple milestones. MIGRATE proposes to use surface wave ambient noise tomography acquired by dense nodal networks to capture the subsurface velocity structure of the upper crust. This approach will improve resolution at depth (compared to previous surface wave ambient noise studies) while reducing acquisition logistics and costs. The use-inspired final goal of MIGRATE will be achieved thanks to the mutual interaction of the three research domains. Specifically, newfangled geological methods will investigate the occurrence of magma at depth and will deliver geological models of the upper crust at the regional- and at the reservoir-scale. The workflow to invert surface wave ambient noise data will be automatised with machine learning methods. The automatised model will be compared against a user-driven ambient noise inversion and interpreted thanks to the geological model and analysis of local microseismicity. This workflow will be applied to investigate the geothermal systems hosted in the Northern Apennines hinterland, Italy. This setting offers a wealth of geophysical and well data that will help constrain and evaluate our models and the opportunity to answer unresolved scientific questions regarding the interplay between magmatic intrusions driven by the regional tectonics and the associated geothermal systems. MIGRATE will have a large impact on our society by radically changing the way subsurface prospection is conducted. If successful, this approach may be applied to investigate the upper crust with key implications for the understanding of geological processes such as seismogenic domains, volcanic systems and ore deposits. Furthermore, affordable high resolution passive seismic exploration may promote further development of other renewable solutions such as heat storage and geological carbon storage.
EQUANT - EarthQUakes and Ambient Noise Tomography for subsurface exploration is a project lead by Dr. Geneviève Savard that has the goal of prospect the upper crust with Nodal Ambient Noise Tomography (NANT).
Our proposed novel methods will retrieve shear-wave velocity information in the subsurface, in the form of 3D models and as transient anomalies over time. We will deploy 3 component nodal networks around the Haute Sorne region and investigate with passive seismic methods the velocity structure at depth. Because shear-wave anomalies are sensitive to the presence of fluids, these methods provide critical subsurface information that will be beneficial to the Haute Sorne project. The proposed methods will provide high quality data to achieve 3 broad goals that will mitigate the following risk factors:
GENERATE - GEophysical and Numerical Experiments for REservoir modelling and fluid-Transported Energy was an SNF Assistant Professor Energy Grant project that lasted from 2016 to 2021. The goal was to develop innovative prospection methods for the investigation of geothermal resources in Switzerland. More details on the project and the scientific outcomes can be found here, link.
PSIGE - Passive Seismic Imaging for GEothermal was financed to support research about Nodal Abient Noise Tomography.
This project aimed to test ambient noise tomography (ANT) with dense nodal networks as an economically and scientifically valuable geothermal exploration tool. The method succeeds at imaging the shear wave velocity structure of the subsurface, over a large area and can image the crystalline basement structure. Nodal ANT was successfully tested in two areas of high geothermal potential in Switzerland: the canton of Aargau and the area surrounding Riehen, BS. A detailed report is available upon request toor