Geothermal energy has emerged as an alternative to ensure a green energy supply while tackling climate change. Geothermal systems extract the heat stored in the Earth’s crust by warming up water, but the low rock permeability at exploitation depths may require the hydraulic stimulation of the rock fracture network. Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) employ techniques such as hydro-shearing and hydro-fracturing for that purpose, but their use promotes anthropogenic earthquakes induced by the injection or extraction of fluids. This work addresses this problem through developing a computational 3D model to explore fault reactivation and evaluating the potential for earthquake triggering at preexisting geological faults. These are included in the model as frictional contacts that allow the relative displacement between both of its sides, governed by rate-and-state friction laws and fully coupled with thermo-hydro-mechanical equations. We apply our methodology to the Basel project, employing the on-site parameters and conditions. Our results demonstrate that earthquakes which occurred in December 2006 in Basel (Switzerland) are compatible with the geomechanical and frictional consequences of the hydraulic stimulation of the rock mass. The application of our model also shows that it can be useful for predicting fault reactivation and engineering injection protocols for managing the safe and sustainable operation of EGS.
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