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Enhanced fracture permeability and accompanying fluid flow in the footwall of a normal fault : the hurricane fault at Pah Tempe hot springs, Washington County, Utah

Nelson, Stephen T and Mayo, Alan L. and Gilfillan, Stuart and Dutson, Sarah J. and Harris, Ronald A. and Shipton, Zoe and Tingey, David G. (2009) Enhanced fracture permeability and accompanying fluid flow in the footwall of a normal fault : the hurricane fault at Pah Tempe hot springs, Washington County, Utah. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 121 (1-2). pp. 236-246. ISSN 0016-7606

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Abstract

The Pah Tempe hot springs discharge ~260 L/s of water at ~40 °C into the Virgin River in the footwall damage zone of the Hurricane fault at Timpoweap Canyon, near Hurricane, Utah, USA. Although these are Na-Cl waters, they actively discharge CO2 gas and contain signifi cant quantities of CO2 (~34.6 mmol/kg), predominantly as H2CO3 and HCO3 –. Because of excellent exposures, Pah Tempe provides an exceptional opportunity to observe the effects of enhanced fracture permeability in an active extensional fault. Pah Tempe waters have been deeply circulated (>5 km; >150 °C) into basement rock as illustrated by the clear water-rock exchange of oxygen isotopes. Waters were probably recharged under colder climate conditions than present and therefore have a prolonged subsurface residence. Discharge of both water and gas in the springs correlates to the density of fractures in carbonate rocks above stream level. This observation suggests that clusters of high fracture density in the faultdamage zone act as pathways from the likely regional aquifer, the eolian Queantoweap Sandstone, through the overlying confining unit, the gypsiferous silty Seligman Member of the Kaibab Formation. Mass-balance modeling suggests that the majority of CO2 discharge is the product of the quantitative dissolution of CO2 gas at depth within the fault zone. Upon discharge, most of the carbon is released to the surface as dissolved species. It appears that the subsurface production rate of CO2 is relatively low because Pah Tempe waters are grossly undersaturated in CO2 at inferred minimum circulation depths and temperatures. Geological and geochemical data also suggest that the CO2 is dominated by a crustal component complemented by minor mantle contributions.