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TitleDetermining the lifespan of hydrothermal systems using thermochronology and thermal modeling
AuthorJess, S; Enkelmann, E; Grasby, S EORCID logo; Fraser, K
SourceJournal of Geophysical Research, Earth Surface vol. 126, issue 11, e2021JF006286, 2021 p. 1-17,
Alt SeriesNatural Resources Canada, Contribution Series 20210297
PublisherAmerican Geophysical Union
Mediapaper; digital; on-line
File formatpdf; html
ProvinceBritish Columbia
NTS83D/06; 83D/07; 83D/10; 83D/11; 83D/14; 83D/15
AreaValemount; Kinbasket Lake
Lat/Long WENS-119.5000 -118.5000 53.0000 52.2500
Subjectsgeophysics; hydrogeology; geochronology; Science and Technology; Nature and Environment; hydrothermal systems; thermal springs; thermal analyses; modelling; energy resources; geothermal energy; geothermal potential; groundwater; groundwater flow; groundwater temperatures; groundwater regimes; host rocks; partial melting; crustal evolution; tectonic setting; volcanism; exploration; fission-track dates; radiometric dating; bedrock geology; structural features; fault zones; Canoe River Hot Springs; Canadian Cordillera; Rocky Mountain Trench; Malton Gneiss Complex; Phanerozoic; Paleozoic; Cambrian; Precambrian; Proterozoic
Illustrationslocation maps; geoscientific sketch maps; cross-sections; models; tables; flow diagrams; time series; plots; profiles
ProgramEnergy Geoscience Geothermal Energy
Released2021 10 20
AbstractThe drive toward lower carbon emissions has led to a rise in global geothermal exploration. Hot springs are key exploration targets as they reflect active advection of thermal fluids derived from heating of meteoric waters circulating through the upper crust. However, establishing the timing of hot spring formation and the longevity of systems remain key knowledge gaps in our understanding of geothermal systems, such as how and when hydrogeologic conditions enable deep groundwater circulation to initiate. In this study, we demonstrate that a combination of multiple low-temperature thermochronometers and finite element modeling can be used to determine the lifespan of the Canoe River Hot Springs flow system, British Columbia, Canada. Rocks adjacent to the hot spring show evidence of reheating because of thermal fluids, an effect absent in more distant samples. Hydrothermal modeling of both constant and episodic flow scenarios over different timescales highlights that the hot spring likely began flowing between 4 and 6 Ma. This timing of flow onset implies the hot spring's formation may be linked to partial melting at the base of the crust, associated with nearby volcanic activity that has increased heat flow across the region in the late Cenozoic. These results have significant implications for the exploration of geothermal energy systems and for understanding the conditions required to form hot springs across British Columbia.
Summary(Plain Language Summary, not published)
This paper develops a novel tool to assess the age of a thermal spring system. Thermal springs are seen as a key exploration tool in geothermal research as they potentially indicate areas of elevated heat flow. It is uncertain though how long such flow systems occur, which is critical knowledge to assess the longevity of a geothermal anomaly. Here we applied techniques developed by the petroleum industry that allow you to assess the age a rock was heated, to time the onset of a geothermal system. We tested this new technique on the thermal springs on Kinbasket lake in eastern BC and show that they started forming around 6 million years ago. This age is the same as onset of volcanic activity in central BC and we interpret that this volcanism initiated the thermal spring flow, showing that this is indeed a long-live thermal anomaly, This initial test of concept appears very successful and can be applied else where.

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