Andrea E. Balza Morales

Results-driven geoscientist with extensive knowledge in geophysical data analysis, survey planning, data processing and geophysical inversion. Communicative, personable, and team player. Interested in gaining experience in developing and applying new technologies that explore and monitor Earth’s natural resources. Fluent in several coding languages. 

  • MSc Geophysics, Colorado School of Mines – Golden, Colorado, USA (Aug 2016- May 2017)
  • BSc Geophysical Engineering, Universidad Simón Bolívar – Caracas, Venezuela (May 2012)

Project Title: Geometry-based joint geological-geophysical inversion
Host Institutions: RWTH Aachen, ETH Zürich, Geophysica, Fraunhofer IEG
Supervisory Team: Florian Wagner, Hansruedi Maurer, Rolf Bracke, Renate Pechnig
Start date: 1.3.2021

ESR Objectives:

Imaging of geological structures with sharp parameter changes across layer boundaries is challenging using conventional smoothness-constrained inversion of geophysical data sets. Advanced regularization approaches consider constant geostatistical properties throughout the parameter domain and therefore fail to capture the complexity of 3D geological models including fault networks, fault–surface interactions, unconformities and dome structures.

We evaluate here geometry-based inversion using an implicit potential-field interpolation approach for an optimised representation of complex 3D reservoir models with low parametrizations.

This implementation has the potential to significantly improve reservoir models and associated process simulations to enable simplified model update with novel information. 

Research Update

The project of ESR 11 (Andrea Balza Morales) aims to develop a structure-based geophysical inversion for an optimized representation of the sharp geological structures that exist within a geothermal system to better characterize the flow and transport processes within these systems. At the beginning of the project, an existing inversion code was extended from 2D to 3D. This workflow merges two open-source Python libraries and leverages upon their existing geological modeling and geophysical forward modeling and inversion capabilities. It is designed in a modular manner and can thus be applied to different geophysical methods and geological scenarios. For the next stage, the complexity of the geological structures will be increased, and the joint inversion component will be developed allowing to integrate different geophysical methods. In parallel, a sensitivity analysis of magnetotelluric data was carried out to understand the response of conductive structures and associated areas of enhanced fluid flow at the Weisweiler site close to Aachen. This work is done in collaboration with ESR 12. The synthetic responses are promising and will help in assessing future magnetotelluric surveys in the Rhine Ruhr area for potential geothermal development. In the last 2 weeks, intensive preparation of the first secondment has started with regular Zoom meetings with ESR 6 and other colleagues at ETH Zurich.

This past 30 of September, Andrea Balza (ESR 11) and Esteban Gomez (ESR 12) participated in a field excursion to learn how to acquire Magnetotelluric data. These geophysical data are used in geothermal exploration research to image conductive bodies or fluid flow zones in deep parts of the subsurface. The method consists in measuring natural geomagnetic and geoelectric field variation at the Earth’s surface. The goal of the test survey was to understand the noise levels given the amount of culture in the surrounding areas. The equipment and training were provided by Prof. Michael Becken from University of Münster and was done in Eifel National Park region. Prof. Becken is an expert in Magnetotellrics and leads this research in the German scientific community. During the 2-day excursion, the ESR’s gained experienced in installing the equipment and acquiring data overnight.  These efforts will provide a better assessment of future magnetotelluric surveys in the Rhine Ruhr area for potential geothermal development.

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