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Fault-controlled CO2 leakage from natural reservoirs in the Colorado Plateau, East-Central Utah

Earth and Planetary Science Letters
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2014.07.012
  • Co2 Leakage
  • Fault
  • Soil Co2 Flux
  • Natural Analogue
  • Co2 Sequestration
  • Chemistry


Abstract The study investigated a natural analogue for soil CO2 fluxes where CO2 has naturally leaked on the Colorado Plateau, East-Central Utah in order to identify various factors that control CO2 leakage and to understand regional-scale CO2 leakage processes in fault systems. The total 332 and 140 measurements of soil CO2 flux were made at 287 and 129 sites in the Little Grand Wash (LGW) and Salt Wash (SW) fault zones, respectively. Measurement sites for CO2 flux involved not only conspicuous CO2 degassing features (e.g., CO2-driven springs/geysers) but also linear features (e.g., joints/fractures and areas of diffusive leakage around a fault damage zone). CO2 flux anomalies were mostly observed along the fault traces. Specifically, CO2 flux anomalies were focused in the northern footwall of the both LGW and SW faults, supporting the existence of north-plunging anticlinal CO2 trap against south-dipping faults as well as higher probability of the north major fault traces as conduits. Anomalous CO2 fluxes also appeared in active travertines adjacent to CO2-driven cold springs and geysers (e.g., 36,259 g m−2 d−1 at Crystal Geyser), ancient travertines (e.g., 5,917 g m−2 d−1), joint zones in sandstone (e.g., 120 g m−2 d−1), and brine discharge zones (e.g., 5,515 g m−2 d−1). These observations indicate that CO2 has escaped through those pathways and that CO2 leakage from these fault zones does not correspond to point source leakage. The magnitude of CO2 flux is progressively reduced from north (i.e. the LGW fault zone, ∼36,259 g m−2 d−1) to south (i.e. the SW fault zone, ∼1,428 g m−2 d−1) despite new inputs of CO2 and CO2-saturated brine to the northerly SW fault from depth. This discrepancy in CO2 flux is most likely resulting from the differences in fault zone architecture and associated permeability structure. CO2-rich fluids from the LGW fault zone may become depleted with respect to CO2 during lateral transport, resulting in an additional decrease in CO2 fluxes within the SW fault zone. In other words, CO2 and CO2-charged brine originating from the LGW fault zone could migrate southward over 10–20 km through a series of high-permeable aquifers (e.g., Entrada, Navajo, Kayenta, Wingate, and White Rim Sandstones). These CO2-rich fluids could finally reach the southernmost Tumbleweed and Chaffin Ranch Geysers across the SW fault zone. The potential lateral transport of both CO2 and CO2-laden brine can be further supported by similar CO2/3He and 3He/4He ratios of gas and a systematic chemical evolution of water emitted from the regional springs and geysers, which suggest the same crustal origins of CO2 and CO2-rich brine for the region.

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