A Regional Strategy For Geothermal Exploration With Emphasis On Gravity And Magnetotellurics

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Journal Article: A Regional Strategy For Geothermal Exploration With Emphasis On Gravity And Magnetotellurics

As part of the resource evaluation and exploration program conducted by Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory for the national Hot Dry Rock (HDR) Geothermal Program, a regional magnetotelluric (MT) survey of New Mexico and Arizona is being performed. The MT lines are being located in areas where the results of analysis of residual gravity anomaly maps of Arizona and New Mexico, integrated with other geologic and geophysical studies indicate the greatest potential for HDR resources. The residual gravity anomalies are derived by applying the concept of predicting gravity anomalies from topography. This can be accomplished by employing reductions similar to those used in some isostatic investigations, in which a regional topographic surface is used as the Bouguer reduction datum. The datum is derived by comparison of various harmonics of Bouguer anomalies and elevations of stations. Topography can be used to predict Bouguer anomalies because of isostatic compensation; the resultant anomalies can be considered high frequency residual anomalies or isostatic anomalies corrected for regional compensation. Such maps have been produced for Arizona, New Mexico, west Texas, and Chihuahua, Mexico. The main objective of the MT project is to produce a regional geoelectric contour map of the pervasive deep electrical conductor within the crust and/or upper mantle beneath the Colorado Plateau and the adjacent Basin and Range Province and Rio Grande Rift. The MT survey consists of 200 sites along several long profiles with site spacing of 15-20 km. Pre-existing available MT data are being integrated with the new data. After the data are processed, a one-dimensional inversion is applied to the sounding curve and used as a starting point for 2-D modeling. Such a project and ultimate map will be of major value in studying the regional geophysics and tectonics of the southwest United States as they now apply to HDR resources in particular and geothermal resources in general. Electrical conductivity anomalies of large areal extent are of particular interest in geothermal exploration. Correlation analysis of large conductive anomalies with other geophysical, geological, and geotectonic data is being performed. Preliminary analysis of the data has suggested several major regions of anomalously shallow high electrical conductivity. Among these is the Aquarius area of northwest Arizona which is the site of a longwavelength residual anomaly low, which when modeled and correlated with other geophysical data can be shown to be possibly related to low density and high temperature in the crust at depths of 20 km or less. Preliminary analysis of MT data indicates the possible existence of a mid-crustal high electrical conductivity anomaly in this same region.

Carlos L.V. Aiken and Mark E. Ander

Published Journal 
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 1981

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Carlos L.V. Aiken,Mark E. Ander. 1981. A Regional Strategy For Geothermal Exploration With Emphasis On Gravity And Magnetotellurics. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research. (!) .