Matrix Permeability of Reservoir Rocks, Ngatamariki Geothermal Field, Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMSc Engineering Geology
Sixteen percent of New Zealand’s power comes from geothermal sources which are primarily located within the Taupo Volcanic Zone (TVZ). The TVZ hosts twenty three geothermal fields, seven of which are currently utilised for power generation. Ngatamariki Geothermal Field is the latest geothermal power generation site in New Zealand, located approximately 15 km north of Taupo. This was the location of interest in this project, with testing performed on a range of materials to ascertain the physical properties and microstructure of reservoir rocks. The effect of burial diagenesis on the physical properties was also investigated. Samples of reservoir rocks were taken from the Tahorakuri Formation and Ngatamariki Intrusive Complex from a range of wells and depths (1354-3284 mbgl). The samples were divided into four broad lithologies: volcaniclastic lithic tuff, primary tuff, welded ignimbrite and tonalite. From the supplied samples twenty one small cylinders (~40-50mm x 20-25mm) were prepared and subjected to the following analyses: dual weight porosity, triple weight porosity, dry density, ultrasonic velocity (saturated and dry) and permeability (over a range of confining pressures). Thin sections impregnated with an epoxy fluorescent dye were created from offcuts of each cylinder and were analysed using polarised light microscopy and quantitative fluorescent light microstructural microscopy. The variety of physical testing allowed characterisation of the physical properties of reservoir rocks within the Ngatamariki Geothermal Field. Special attention was given to the petrological and mineralogical fabrics and their relation to porosity and matrix permeability. It was found that the pore structures (microfractures or vesicles) had a large influence on the physical properties. Microfractured samples were associated with low porosity and permeability, while the vesicular samples were associated with high porosity and permeability. The microfractured samples showed progressively lower permeability with increased confining pressure whereas samples with a vesicular microstructure showed little response to increased confining pressure. An overall trend of decreasing porosity and permeability with increasing density and sonic velocity was observed with depth, however large fluctuations with depth indicate this trend may be uncertain. The large variations correlate with changes in lithology suggest that the lithology is the primary control of the physical properties with burial diagenesis being a subsidiary factor. This project has established a relationship between the microstructure and permeability, with vesicular samples showing high permeability and little response increased confining pressure. The effects of burial diagenesis on the physical properties are subsidiary to the observed variations in lithology. The implications of these results suggest deep drilling in the Tahorakuri Formation may reveal unexploited porosity and permeability at depth.