Application of fluid inclusions in geological thermometry


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Virginia Tech


Many geologic processes occur in association with hydrothermal fluids and some of these fluids are eventually trapped as fluid inclusions in minerals formed during the process. Fluid inclusions provide valuable information on the pressure, temperature and fluid composition (PTX) of the environment of formation, hence understanding PTX properties of the fluid inclusions is required.

The most important step of a fluid inclusion study is the identification of Fluid Inclusion Assemblages (FIA) that represent the finest (shortest time duration) geologic event that can be constrained using fluid inclusions. Homogenization temperature data obtained from fluid inclusions is often used to reconstruct temperature history of a geologic event. The precision with which fluid inclusions constrain the temperatures of geologic events depends on the precision with which the temperature of a fluid inclusion assemblage can be determined.

Synthetic fluid inclusions trapped in the one-fluid-phase field are formed at a known and relatively constant temperature. However, microthermometry of synthetic fluid inclusions often reveals Th variations of about ± 1- 4 degrees Centigrade, or one order of magnitude larger than the precision of the measurement for an individual inclusion. The same range in Th was observed in well-constrained natural FIAs where the inclusions are assumed to have been trapped at the same time. The observed small variations are the result of the effect of the fluid inclusion size on the bubble collapsing temperature. As inclusions are heated the vapor bubble is getting smaller until the pressure difference between the pressure of the vapor and the confining pressure reaches a critical value and the bubble collapses. It was observed that smaller inclusions reach critical bubble radius and critical pressure differences at lower temperatures than larger inclusions within the same FIA.

Homogenization temperature (Th) variations depend on many factors that vary within different geological environments. In order to determine minimum and acceptable Th ranges fro FIAs formed in different environments we investigated several geologic environments including sedimentary, metamorphic, and magmatic hydrothermal environments. The observed minimum Th ranges range from 1-4 degrees Centigrade and acceptable Th range from 5-25 degrees Centigrade. The variations are mostly caused by the fluid inclusion size, natural temperature and pressure fluctuations during the formation of an FIA and reequilibration after trapping.

Fluid inclusions containing H₂O-CO₂-NaCl are common in many geologic environments and knowing the salinity of these inclusions is important to interpret PVTX properties of the fluids. A technique that combines Raman spectroscopy and microthermometry of individual inclusions was developed to determine the salinity of these inclusions. In order to determine the salinity, the pressure and temperature within the inclusion must be known. The pressure within the inclusions is determined using the splitting in the Fermi diad of the Raman spectra of the CO₂ at the clathrate melting temperature. Applying the technique with to synthetic fluid inclusions with known salinity suggests that the technique is valid and useable to determine salinity of H₂O-CO₂-NaCl fluid inclusions with unknown salinity.



thermal history, ore deposits, fluid inclusion assemblages, salinity, Raman microspectrometry, microthermometry, fluid inclusion size, CO2 clathrate, homogenization temperature variation