[unav_all] Mendenhall postdoctoral opportunity on moment release at geothermal fields

Barbour, Andrew abarbour at usgs.gov
Wed Nov 14 14:55:23 MST 2018

We'd appreciate if the following job announcement can be forwarded to your

Dear Colleagues,

We'd like to draw your attention to our current listing for a USGS
Mendenhall Postdoc position available in Menlo Park to work on
understanding modes of deformation and moment release at geothermal fields.


For more details see
For general application information see

Applicants are strongly encouraged to get in touch with us to discuss
possible projects and proposals early in the process, but please note the
position closes January 18th 2019 (


17-1. Determining deformation mechanisms at active geothermal fields in the
western United States and their implications for seismic hazard

Geothermal energy production has seen a steady increase across the western
United States and worldwide. In the western U.S., geothermal resources are
generally located in regions of high strain rates and, in many cases,
regions of significant seismic hazard. This is particularly true for
enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), in which low permeability rock is
stimulated to generate sufficient reservoir performance. Several such EGS
sites have been linked to significant seismic hazards (e.g. Basel,
Switzerland, in 2009, possibly Pohang, Korea, in 2017). Induced earthquakes
there caused significant damage, but no known fatalities. With the
possibility of broader adoption of such EGS technologies, it is important
to understand how geothermal energy production impacts seismic hazard and
moment release in a region. Some of the known physical phenomena involved
include slip on reservoir-bounding faults and distributed reservoir
deformation, which may lead to measurable signals, including but not
limited to surface subsidence and induced seismicity.

Indeed, seismicity is commonly observed at both traditional geothermal
fields and EGS sites, but recent observations suggest that aseismic slip
may be equally significant. Such aseismic slip may be due to slow, but
steady slip on faults, thermoelastic deformation, and/or, in the case of
EGS, on opening mode deformation of stimulated fractures that is
seismically inefficient. These phenomena call into question the accuracy of
hazard estimates at geothermal fields that are based on seismicity alone
and suggest that geodetic data are critical to understanding deformation
processes. Many of the largest geothermal fields in the western U.S. are
located along plate boundary fault systems with high slip rates, or in
other high strain-rate tectonic environments, making it especially
challenging to isolate the contribution of subsurface industrial activities
from natural processes and/or discern whether industrial practices might
increase the likelihood of larger earthquakes. As advanced methods for
detecting seismicity and measuring ground deformation become more
prevalent, we stand poised to make profound discoveries related to the
physical processes driving geothermal energy production and the related
seismic hazard potential.

We seek a Mendenhall postdoctoral fellow to advance our capability to
reconcile observed patterns in seismicity and ground deformation with
physics-based models of geothermal field fluid and heat circulation,
associated reservoir deformation and active stimulation. Ideally, this work
would address the impact of real or idealized industrial geothermal
activities. We invite proposals to improve our understanding of aseismic
moment release, fault friction dynamics, permeability alteration, migration
of fluids, and/or changes in the state of stress, pressure, and
temperature. Additionally, we invite research to help determine the
relative importance of these phenomena in geothermal environments using
observations like seismicity patterns, surface deformation, pressure and
temperature, borehole (or inferred) stress information, and injection and
production volumes.

Research Advisor(s): Andy Barbour, (650) 329-4803, abarbour at usgs.gov; Ole
Kaven, (650) 329-4675, okaven at usgs.gov; Nick Beeler, (360) 993-8987,
nbeeler at usgs.gov; Josh Taron, (650) 329-4940, jmtaron at usgs.gov; David
Shelly, (303) 273-8659, dshelly at usgs.gov

Andrew Barbour, Ph.D.
Research Geophysicist
Earthquake Science Center
US Geological Survey
p: (650) 329 4803
f: (650) 329 5163
a: 345 Middlefield Rd. MS. 977, Menlo Park, CA 94025
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