Multi-Stage Fluid Circulation In A Hydraulic Fracture Breccia Of The Larderello Geothermal Field (Italy)

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Journal Article: Multi-Stage Fluid Circulation In A Hydraulic Fracture Breccia Of The Larderello Geothermal Field (Italy)

The deep well MV5A, drilled in the western part of the Larderello geothermal field, crossed a 20-cm-thick hydraulic fracture breccia unit at a depth of 1090 m below ground level (b.g.l.). This breccia occurs in a fine-grained Triassic metasandstone and consists of angular to subangular clasts of up to some centimeters in size. Pervasive alteration has affected the breccia clasts and wall rock around the breccia, with the formation of Mg-Fe chlorite. After such alteration, hydrothermal circulation caused the precipitation of two generations of calcite cement. Then, ankerite partially replaced these two calcite generations. Ankerite also precipitated in late veinlets with chlorite. Late hydrothermal activity led to the crystallization of albite, quartz and finally, anhydrite. The calcite contains vapor-rich inclusions and two populations of liquid-rich (L1 and L2) inclusions. L1 inclusions are characterized by homogenization temperatures between 304 and 361°C and salinities from 7.4 to 11.6 wt.% NaCl equivalent; L2 inclusions revealed homogenization temperatures in the range of 189-245°C and salinities from 2.6 to 6.3 wt.% NaCl equivalent. The fluids contained in L2 inclusions were probably trapped coevally with some vapor-rich inclusions under boiling conditions after the L1 inclusions formed. Some of the abundant vapor-rich inclusions in calcite may also represent early, low-temperature inclusions affected by decrepitation and/or stretching and/or leaking during L1 trapping. The liquid-rich (L) inclusions trapped at later stages in ankerite, albite and anhydrite display, respectively, homogenization temperature ranges of 189-198°C, 132-145°C, and 139-171°C, and salinities ranging from 1.6 to 1.7 wt.% NaCl equivalent, 1.4 to 2.1 wt.% NaCl equivalent and 3.7 to 6.2 wt.% NaCl equivalent. The inclusions studied record the evolution, over time, of the fluids flowing in the breccia level: L1 inclusions capture high-temperature fluid (about 300 to 350°C) of high salinity (around 10 wt.% NaCl equivalent) at above-hydrostatic pressures (up to about 150 bar). The L2 inclusions in calcite and liquid-rich inclusions in ankerite and albite represent subsequent hydrothermal fluid evolution toward lower temperatures (about 250 to 130°C), pressures (45 to a few bar) and salinities (6.3 to 1.4 wt.% NaCl equivalent). During this stage, boiling processes and infiltration of meteoric waters probably occurred. Finally, moderately saline fluids (around 5 wt.% NaCl equivalent) at a temperature (about 160°C) close to that of present-day in-hole measurements was trapped in the anhydrite inclusions. The liquids trapped in liquid-rich inclusions circulated at 41,000 years (maximum age of calcite) or later. This age represents an upper limit for the development of vapor-dominated condition, in this part of the geothermal system. The fluids circulating at the breccia level were probably meteoric and/or connate waters. These fluids may have interacted with the anhydrite and carbonate bearing formations present in the Larderello area. The occurrence of the hot and saline fluids, trapped in L1 inclusions at above-hydrostatic pressure, suggests that similar fluids but with higher pressure (>=167 bar) and temperature (>=360°C) may have been responsible for rock fracturing.

Giovanni Ruggieri and Giovanni Gianelli

Published Journal 
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 1999

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Giovanni Ruggieri,Giovanni Gianelli. 1999. Multi-Stage Fluid Circulation In A Hydraulic Fracture Breccia Of The Larderello Geothermal Field (Italy). Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research. (!) .