Geochemistry And Isotopes Of Fluids From Sulphur Springs, Valles Caldera, New Mexico

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Journal Article: Geochemistry And Isotopes Of Fluids From Sulphur Springs, Valles Caldera, New Mexico

Detailed geochemistry supported by geologic mapping has been used to investigate Sulphur Springs, an acid-sulfate hot spring system that issues from the western flank of the resurgent dome inside Valles Caldera. The most intense activity occurs at the intersection of faults offsetting caldera-fill deposits and post-caldera rhyolites. Three geothermal wells in the area have encountered pressures <1 MPa and temperatures of 200°C at depths of 600 to 1000 m. Hot spring and fumarole fluids may discharge at boiling temperatures with pH (congruent with) 1.0 and SO4 ≤8000 mg/l. These conditions cause argillic alterations throughout a large area. Non-condensible gases consist of roughly 99% CO2 with minor amounts of H2S, H2, and CH4. Empirical gas geothermometry suggests a deep reservoir temperature of 215 to 280°C. Comparison of 13C and 18O between CaCO3 from well cuttings and CO2 from fumarole steam indicates a fractionation temperature between 200 and 300°C by decarbonation of hydrothermally altered Paleozoic limestone and vein calcite in the reservoir rocks. Tritium concentrations obtained from steam condensed in a mudpot and deep reservoir fluids (Baca #13, ~278°C) are 2.1 and 1.0 T.U. respectively, suggesting the steam originates from a reservoir whose water is mostly >50 yrs old. Deuterium contents of fumarole steam, deep reservoir fluid, and local meteoric water are practically identical even though 18O contents range through 4‰, thus, precipitation on the resurgent dome of the caldera could recharge the hydrothermal system by slow percolation. From analysis of D and 18O values between fumarol steam and deep reservoir fluid, steam reaches the surface either (1) by vaporizing relatively shallow groundwater at 200°C or (2) by means of a two-stage boiling process through an intermediate level reservoir at roughly 200°C. Although many characteristics of known vapor-dominated geothermal systems are found at Sulphur Springs, fundamental differences exist in temperature and pressure of our postulated vapor-zone. We propose that the reservoir beneath Sulphur Springs is too small or too poorly confined to sustain a "true" vapor-dominated system and that the Sulphur Springs system may be a "dying" vapor-dominated system that has practically boiled itself dry.

Fraser Goff, Jamie Gardner, Rosemary Vidale and Robert Charles

Published Journal 
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 1985

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Fraser Goff,Jamie Gardner,Rosemary Vidale,Robert Charles. 1985. Geochemistry And Isotopes Of Fluids From Sulphur Springs, Valles Caldera, New Mexico. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research. (!) .