Swiss Journal of Geosciences

, 102:467 | Cite as

Stress orientation to 5 km depth in the basement below Basel (Switzerland) from borehole failure analysis

  • Benoît Valley
  • Keith F. Evans


A vertical profile of maximum horizontal principal stress, SHmax, orientation to 5 km depth was obtained beneath the Swiss city of Basel from observations of wellbore failure derived from ultrasonic televiewer images obtained in two 1 km distant near-vertical boreholes: a 2755 m exploration well (OT2) imaged from 2550 m to 2753 m across the granitic basement-sediment interface at 2649 m; and a 5 km deep borehole (BS1) imaged entirely within the granite from 2569 m to 4992 m. Stress-related wellbore failure in the form of breakouts or drilling-induced tension fractures (DITFs) occurs throughout the depth range of the logs with breakouts predominant. Within the granite, DITFs are intermittently present, and breakouts more or less continuously present over all but the uppermost 100 m where they are sparse. The mean SHmax orientations from DITFs is 151 ± 13° whereas breakouts yield 143 ± 14°, the combined value weighted for frequency of occurrence being N144°E ± 14°. No marked depth dependence in mean SHmax orientation averaged over several hundred meters depth intervals is evident. This mean SHmax orientation for the granite is consistent with the results of the inversion of populations of focal mechanism solutions of earthquakes occurring between depths of 10–15 km within regions immediately to the north and south of Basel, and with the T-axis of events occurring within the reservoir (Deichmann and Ernst, this volume). DITFs and breakouts identified in OT2 above and below the sediment-basement interface suggest that a change in SHmax orientation to N115°E ± 12° within the Rotliegendes sandstone occurs near its interface with the basement. The origin of the 20–30° change is uncertain, as is its lateral extent. The logs do not extend higher than 80 m above the interface, and so the data do not define whether a further change in stress orientation occurs at the evaporites. Near-surface measurements taken within 50 km of Basel suggest a mean orientation of N–S, albeit with large variability, as do the orientation of hydrofractures at depths up to 850 m within and above the evaporite layers and an active salt diapir, also within 50 km of Basel. Thus, the available evidence supports the notion that the orientation of SHmax above the evaporites is on average more N–S oriented and thus differs from the NW–SE inferred for the basement from the BS1/OS2 wellbore failure data and the earthquake data. Changes in stress orientation with depth can have significant practical consequences for the development of an EGS reservoir, and serve to emphasise the importance of obtaining estimates from within the target rock mass.


borehole failure stress state enhanced geothermal systems 

Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geological InstituteSwiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH)ZürichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Geomechanics Research Center, MIRARCOLaurentian UniversitySudburyCanada

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