About the Project

Deep geothermal energy has huge potential as environmentally friendly CO2-free district heat source in urban centres. A drawback is that geothermal systems can induce earthquakes that pose seismic risk to critical sensitive infrastructure such as hospitals, data centres and underground construction (e.g., underground trains). Risk can be mitigated with implementing transparent regulatory processes, defining adequate seismic monitoring plans and regional planning. The SEISMIC RISK project focuses on how to evaluate, mitigate and communicate seismic hazard and risk in an urban environment. One of the associated challenges is the unclear regulatory process and unclear roles of the different actors in Finland. It is also necessary to clarify what sort of information and at what level of detail the authorities need information on induced seismicity and associated risks.

The project is centered around the Otaniemi deep geothermal system, using and creating high quality datasets on induced seismicity as well as geological background data. As both scientific and societal impact is targeted, the work is organized into nine work packages each focusing on different but interrelated challenges.

The project consortium consists of the University of Helsinki, VTT Technical Research Centre and the Geological Survey of Finland. The SEISMIC RISK –project is funded through the Academy of Finland’s special funding for Crisis preparedness and security of supply during 8/2020-11/2023.

The project targets the potential of geothermal systems to induce earthquakes and the associated risks to urban environments. The research hypothesis is that induced earthquakes represent a previously non-existing seismic hazard in the urban regions, the level of which may exceed the seismic hazard posed by natural seismicity. Secondly, the future induced earthquakes have the potential to severely impact today’s sensitive societal infrastructures and operations. The research questions are  addressed through the following steps:

  1. Preparing the best possible seismic hazard map for the national needs. This is a prerequisite for an analysis of seismic risk. Natural seismicity is addressed at this point.
  2. Developing a general scheme for separating the seismic hazard related to induced seismicity and natural seismicity.
  3. Constructing a 3D tomography image of the subsurface structures of the target region.
  4. Preparing a 3D geological model of the target region.
  5. Collecting data to assess the vulnerabilities of the building stock.
  6. Investigating the factors that control disturbing earthquake-related sound patterns during stimulations.
  7. Managing the various datasets created during the project.
  8. Highlighting the gaps in governing geothermal energy processes and how this phenomenon should be governed to foster sustainable and societally acceptable development.
  9. Communicating the results in easily understandable fashion for the end users and providing Open Access results for scientific purposes.

Each of these steps represent a work package in the project.

The image on the left  lists various geothermal energy applications that are possible in Finnish conditions. Source: Uski, M., & Piipponen, K., (Editors) (2020). Report on deep hole drilling in geothermal energy projects, associated environmental perspectives and risk management. Report; Nro S-68. University of Helsinki, Department of Geosciences and Geography. DOI: 10.31885/9789521095962

The project work is divided into nine work packages. Each work package correspond to one of the above metioned steps addressing the research questions.

The work packages are

  1. Intra-plate hazard,
  2. Induced seismicity and its effect on urban hazard,
  3. Tomography model of the Helsinki capital region,
  4. Regional geological 3D model for the Helsinki capital region,
  5. Vulnerabilities and risks of building infrastructure,
  6. Controlling factors of disturbing sound patterns for induced earthquakes,
  7. Data management,
  8. Managing wicked problems in governance of geothermal energy, and
  9. Dissemination and outreach.

Each work packages is described in more detail under Research.

The expected scientific project results are Open Access seismic hazard maps of Finland and ground-motion prediction equations (GMPE) for magnitude levels greater than magnitude 2 tailored for the Finnish bedrock conditions. The hazard values will be useful for evaluating risks to shaking-sensitive systems or constructions, helping in risk informed decision of planning by supervising authorities. Moreover, they can be used for defining new guidelines on construction of critical infrastructure. It will produce induced seismic risk assessment and 3D tomographic velocity and geological models of the capital region. The 3D sub-surface model of the city area can be used to evaluate soil and bedrock properties for urban planning and construction, outline tremor and noise sensitive areas, and identify areas where deep geothermal plants are possibly less risky.

The surveys and interviews on the planning and regulating processes will give us information on 1) the extent to which different actors have a common understanding of the current situation and potential risks, 2) who should be responsible for coordinating risk management, and 3) how citizens should be informed of potential risks and whether they should also be able to participate in decision-making regarding the potential sites for such geothermal power plants.

The project will produce educational material for the governmental and municipal decision makers, politicians and the general public on the concepts of seismic hazard, seismic risk and induced seismicity and its hazard and risk to the urban societies.

The project consortium consists of the University of Helsinki, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Geological Survey of Finland.

The project leader and PI is Annakaisa Korja, Research Director and Head of the Department of geosciences and geopraphy, University of Helsinki.

Annakaisa
Korja
Research Director
Department of Geosciences and Geography
Field of science Geosciences

The project co-PIs are Ludovic Fülöp, Principal Scientist from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Niko Putkinen, Senior Researcher and Geologist from Geological Survey of Finland.

The project coordinator is Niina Junno, doctoral student at the Institute of Seismology, Department of geosciences and geopraphy, University of Helsinki.

Niina
Junno
Doctoral Student
Institute of Seismology
Field of science Geosciences

 

The project stakeholders are the Academy of Finland (project funding), Ministries of Environment and Economic Affairs and Employment, Radiation Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK), Cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa, Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, Regional State Administrative Agency and Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities. The stakeholders also include several energy companies operating in Finland (Fennovoima, TVO, Fortum, Posiva, St1, Qheat).