What is it about?

Volcano-hosted high-temperature geothermal systems are powerful resources for renewable electricity generation. We use a geophysical method called magnetotellurics to image the 3-D electrical conductivity distribution beneath the power-producing Aluto-Langano volcanic geothermal field in Ethiopia. Subsurface electrical conductivity imaging allows to identify the magmatic heat source and the distribution of hydrothermal alteration minerals. Simultaneous 3-D imaging of these characteristic features allowed us to infer the hydrothermal flow patterns and upflow zones in a magma-driven geothermal reservoir. Our study explains strong well-to-well gradients encountered at the geothermal field and shows why the first two wells were not productive. Furthermore, it proposes new prospective drilling locations that can expand energy production.

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Why is it important?

Geothermal energy is a baseload renewable energy, and it could be a major source of energy in countries along the East African Rift that host numerous active volcanoes. However, until today most of the geothermal potential remains untapped. Harnessing these geothermal energy resources could provide an affordable and homegrown renewable energy solution for regions with low levels of electrification. Our study of the Aluto-Langano geothermal field in Ethiopia shows how modern 3-D magnetotelluric imaging can help in de-risking geothermal projects. This technique can be adapted for other volcanic geothermal prospects around the world with similar geological settings.


The study at Aluto-Langano geothermal field shows the immense value of properly chosen geophysical tools (in this case, magnetotellurics) for understanding complex magma-driven geothermal systems – a challenge which our early magnetotelluric investigations at Aluto did not succeed in and which required the development of modern state-of-the-art 3-D inversion tools.

Friedemann Samrock
ETH Zurich

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Geophysically guided well siting at the Aluto-Langano geothermal reservoir, Geophysics, July 2023, Society of Exploration Geophysicists, DOI: 10.1190/geo2022-0617.1.
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