Carbonate Alteration Minerals in the Salton Sea Geothermal System, California, USA

S. Douglas McDowell and James B. Paces
Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Michigan 49931

Abstract: Active geothermal systems in fluvial-deltaic sediment of the Salton Trough typically develop a thick, carbonate-cemented sandstone caprock which shows a regular progression of carbonate minerals, mineral reactions, rock-fluid mass transfer, and physical properties on increasing temperature. The Sinclair 3 well contains calcian ankerite at < 175 °C, ankerite from 175 to 195 °C, calcite+minor dolomite from 195 to about 250°C, and calcite at higher temperatures. The carbonate content of sandstone decreases on increasing temperature from > 45% at < 140 °C to about 10% at > 250 °C, The most abrupt decrease occurs in the 140 to 170°C range where significant compaction of sandstone occurs as carbonate is reduced to < 25%, and kaolinite reacts to form chlorite. The overall result is the loss of significant Ca, Fe, Mg, and CO2 from sandstone to the fluid phase on increasing temperature. Reaction ofcalcian ankerite to ankerite near 175 °C, and of ankerite to calcite and minor dolomite in the 195 to 245°C range, takes place on a constant carbonate-volume basis by direct replacement of one carbonate by another. The latter reaction produces significant chlorite, with Al derived from solution of detrital feldspar and from the smectite-to-illite transformation. The equilibrium coexistence of calcite with dolomite and ankerite near 200 °C has allowed construction of an isothermal section in the Ca-Mg-(Fe+Mn) carbonate phase diagram and provided a low-temperature constraint on the calcite limb of the calcite-dolomite solvus.

Keywords: calcite • dolomite • ankerite • geothermal system • Salton Sea • California • USA

Mineralogical Magazine; June 1985 v. 49; no. 352; p. 469-479; DOI: 10.1180/minmag.1985.049.352.17
© 1985, The Mineralogical Society
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