2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM

Paper No. 14
Presentation Time: 11:25 AM

Application of Atmospheric Noble Gases In Deep Michigan Basin Brines as Natural Tracers for a Past Thermal Event

MA, Lin1, CASTRO, Maria Clara2 and HALL, Chris M.2, (1)Geological Sciences, University of Texas at El Paso, 500 W. University Ave, El Paso, TX 79968, (2)Geological Sciences, University of Michigan, 1100 N. University Ave, 2534 C.C. Little Building, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, lma@utep.edu

Atmospheric noble gases (22Ne, 36Ar, 84Kr, 130Xe) in crustal fluids are only sensitive to subsurface physical processes. In particular, depletion of atmospheric noble gases in groundwater due to boiling and steam separation is indicative of the occurrence of a thermal event and can thus be used to trace the thermal history of stable tectonic regions. We present noble gas concentrations of 38 deep brines (~0.5-3.6km) from the Michigan Basin. The atmospheric noble gas component shows a strong depletion pattern with respect to air saturated water. Depletion of lighter gases (22Ne and 36Ar) is stronger compared to the heavier ones (84Kr and 130Xe). To understand the mechanisms responsible for this overall atmospheric noble gas depletion, phase interaction models were tested. We show that this atmospheric noble gas depletion pattern is best explained by a model involving subsurface boiling and steam separation, and thus is consistent with the occurrence of a past thermal event of mantle origin as previously indicated by both high 4He/heat flux ratios and the presence of primordial mantle He and Ne signatures in the basin. Such a model is also consistent with the presence of past elevated temperatures in the Michigan Basin (~80-260°C) at shallow depths, as suggested by previous thermal studies in the basin. We suggest that recent reactivation of the ancient mid-continent rift system beneath the Michigan Basin is likely responsible for the release of both heat and mantle noble gases into the basin via deep-seated faults and fracture zones. Relative enrichment of atmospheric Kr and Xe with respect to Ar is also observed in these brines and interpreted as reflecting the addition of sedimentary Kr and Xe from associated hydrocarbons, following the hydrothermal event. This study pioneers the use of atmospheric noble gases in subsurface fluids to trace the thermal history of stable tectonic regions.