Hydrochemical-Isotopic And Hydrogeological Conceptual Model Of The Las Tres Virgenes Geothermal Field, Baja California Sur, Mexico

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Journal Article: Hydrochemical-Isotopic And Hydrogeological Conceptual Model Of The Las Tres Virgenes Geothermal Field, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Based on geological, structural, hydrochemical and isotopic data, a hydrogeological conceptual model for the geothermal reservoir, shallow wells and springs at the Las Tres Virgenes geothermal field and its surroundings is proposed. The model explains the genesis of different types of thermal and cold groundwater in the NW (El Azufre Valley, Las Tres Virgenes and Aguajito complex), NE (Reforma complex) and S (Sierra Mezquital) areas. Shallow groundwater of sulfate type in the NW zone is explained by the rise of CO2-H2S vapor from a shallow magma chamber and the subsequent heating up of a shallow aquifer. Vertical communication between the reservoir and the surface is facilitated by a series of extensional, NW-SE-trending normal faults, forming the graben structures of the Santa Rosalia Basin. Low-permeability characteristics of the geological formations of the study area support the hypothesis of a fracture and fault-dominated, subterranean-flow circulation system. The Na- (Cl-HCO3) composition of springs in the NE and SE zones indicates influence of ascending geothermal fluids, facilitated by radial fault systems of the Reforma caldera and probably the existence of a shallow magma chamber. Close to the surface, the rising geothermal fluids are mixed up with meteoric water from a shallow aquifer. The Las Tres Virgenes and the Reforma complex are separated by younger, N-S-trending lateral shearing faults, such as the Cimarron fault; such disposition explains the genesis of different hydrogeological flow regimes on both sides. HCO3-type surface water from the southern zone between San Ignacio and Mezquital is of typical meteoric origin, with no influence of geothermal fluids. Due to arid climatic conditions in the study zone, recent recharge in the geothermal area seems improbable; thus, recent interaction between the surface and the geothermal reservoir can be excluded. Furthermore, isotopic and hydrochemical data exclude the presence of marine water from the Gulf of California in the deep reservoir. Both conditions indicate recharge of the reservoir by meteoric water during glacial periods in Holocene or Pleistocene time, or a magmatic origin of the reservoir fluids. The slightly positive slope of the Δ18O-ΔD line of geothermal fluids and its intermediate isotopic composition-between the surface samples and magmatic ("andesitic") water indicate that magmatic ("andesitic") water contributes approximately 30% to the geothermal fluid composition, whereas "fossil" meteoric water represents the major component (70%). The geothermal reservoir is considered to represent a hydrostatic, stagnant flow system. Based on the observed linear correlation between the isotopic composition and the altitude of the surface manifestations, the isotopic composition and altitude of the former recharge were determined as Δ18O=-9.7‰ and ΔD=-67.3‰, and 350 m.a.s.l., respectively. This altitude is interpreted as mean (average) recharge elevation. Scarcity of permanent rivers, low density of springs and domestic wells, as well as low precipitation rates, reflect restricted distribution of shallow groundwater systems in the study zone. These systems are related to isolated, local aquifers composed of valley fillings.

E. Portugal, P. Birkle, R. M. Barragan R, V. M. Arellano G, E. Tello and M. Tello

Published Journal 
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 2000

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E. Portugal,P. Birkle,R. M. Barragan R,V. M. Arellano G,E. Tello,M. Tello. 2000. Hydrochemical-Isotopic And Hydrogeological Conceptual Model Of The Las Tres Virgenes Geothermal Field, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research. (!) .