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PARTNERSHIPS FOR ENHANCED ENGAGEMENT IN RESEARCH (PEER)
Cycle 9 (2020 Deadline)


Assessment of geothermal energy resources and natural hazards in Armenia

PI: Khachatur Meliksetian (km@geology.am), Institute of Geological Sciences, Armenian National Academy of Sciences
U.S. Partner: Peter La Femina, The Pennsylvania State University
Project Dates: April 2021 - April 2024

Conference Circular: “Continental Collision Zone Volcanism and Associated Hazards,” Yerevan, September 2023

Project Overview:
 
Armenia is a landlocked country in the South Caucasus region, located between Iran, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey, with population of about 3 million. From Neogene to Quaternary times, the territory of Armenia has been located in a continent-continent collision zone (i.e., collision of the Arabian and Eurasian plates) and exposed to transpressional tectonics resulting in widespread and long-lasting volcanic activity. Several active faults and potentially active and active volcanic systems exist in the country, and many historical earthquakes have been recorded. Past experience in Armenia shows that social stability and economic development are intimately tied to natural hazards, as experienced in the 1988 Spitak earthquake in Armenia that killed 25,000 people and its aftermath, which resulted in economic collapse. The geology of Armenia with its volcanoes and active faults are potential sources of hazards, but they also represent important potential for geothermal energy, an important resource given that much of Armenia’s current energy production is from imported fossil and nuclear fuels, as well as hydropower.

9-252 Video 19-252 Video 2
Video 1: Great potential for geothermal energy production in Armenia. English TranscriptVideo 2: Subsurface of the Earth – a source of electricity production. English Transcript

The major objective of this project is to strengthen partnerships and cooperation between the United States and Armenia and to build an interdisciplinary team to address areas of sustainable development such as geothermal energy, natural hazards and risk mitigation. The project will have a significant development impact by enhancing interdisciplinary geoscience studies; linking volcanology, seismology, geophysics, geochemistry, and numerical modeling; and aiming to improve knowledge in the exploration of geothermal energy resources and the probabilistic assessment of natural hazards in Armenia. The development of the energy sector and renewable/alternative energy are among USAID priorities in Armenia.

The research team of the Institute of Geological Sciences of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences in Yerevan (IGS ANAS) has good experience in studying geology, volcanology, potential hazards and geothermal energy in Armenia, and the application of a complex interdisciplinary approach. However, they lack experience and knowledge in quantitative computational models of these processes and the study of geothermal systems linked with volcano-tectonic interactions. Overall, the project will provide a pathway for the institute staff to better tie years of geological research to hazard assessments and exploration of the geothermal energy potential of Armenia. This PEER-funded study of the geothermal energy resources of Armenia will have a significant impact through development outcomes related to potential commercialization. Working in partnership with NASA-supported researchers, the project team will learn and apply seismic research methods and modelling tools. As a result of this project, the team will develop recommendations for the Government of the Republic of Armenia regarding further exploration and use of geothermal energy resources, as well as for local policymakers regarding natural hazards and volcano monitoring.

Summary of Recent Activities:

During the second half of 2022, this PEER team was focused on field work and interpretation of the database they are developing, as well as ongoing virtual discussions with U.S. partners on the project. Work also continued on the collection of seismic data for ambient noise tomography. The team installed three new seismic stations in the southern and southwestern parts of Gegham volcanic ridge as part of a volcanoseismology network aimed at studying seismic swarms and geothermal activity in the area. The researchers reported some of their results during a webinar organized on November 17, 2022, by their institute within the framework of the COST Action CA18219 project, which is linked to the PEER-funded effort. The title of the webinar was ՛՛Deep and subsurface geothermal energy potential as an environmentally ‘clean’ and renewable energy resource in the South Caucasus,՛՛ and it involved participants from Georgia and Austria, as well as Armenia. During their field work , the team was focused on a CO2 survey, volcanological mapping, and sample collection for geochemistry and 40Ar-39Ar dating, aiming to select areas with geothermal anomalies.

In 2023, Dr. Meliksetian and his team will continue their field work, summarize satellite and seismic data, and select promising areas for further exploration of geothermal energy resources. They also plan to organize an international scientific conference in Yerevan in September 2023. One of the sessions will be related to geothermal energy and activities under the PEER project. The title of the conference is “Continental Collision Zone Volcanism and Associated Hazards,” and the first circular [PDF] has already been distributed.


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