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Connection between enhanced geothermal technology and earthquakes

In November 2017, a magnitude 5.5 earthquake shook Pohang, South Korea, and the researchers blamed the development of enhanced geothermal project for it.

The main working principle of enhanced geothermal revolves around creating a network of fractures in hot rock that is otherwise too impermeable for water to flow through.You pump cold water down one, the Earth warms it up, and you extract hot water at the other end.

The problem lies in the fact that pumping up the Earth with high pressure can lead to earthquakes as this was the case in Pohang.

Enhanced geothermal technology needs to find solution for this flaw. The potential of this technology is huge but the risks connected with earthquakes need to be reduced to absolute minimum.

Developers usually overlook smaller earthquakes connected with enhanced geothermal projects, but if earthquakes begin to get larger they have to adjust their operation, or even stop it if necessary.

Current working hypothesis is that as long as you don't put more than a certain volume of fluid into a well, you won't get earthquakes beyond a certain size. The Pohang experience tells us this is not always a 100% certainty. 

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