Reactivity of organic-rich sediment in seawater at 350°c, 500 bars: experimental and theoretical constraints and implications for the guaymas basin hydrothermal system

Edward C. Thornton, W. E. Seyfried

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Hydrothermal alteration of organic-rich diatomaceous sediment by seawater was modelled experimentally at 350°C, 500 bars and seawater/sediment mass ratio of 3. The experiment was performed to assess the effect of organic matter reactivity on solution speciation and sediment alteration processes at an elevated temperature and pressure and provide requisite data to better understand the chemistry of hydrothermal fluids issuing from vents in the Guaymas Basin, Gulf of California. Seawater chemistry changed greatly during the experiment. In particular, Na, Mg and SO4 decreased, while ∑ CO2, ∑ NH3, ∑ H2S, SiO2, Ca, K, H2, CH4 and heavy and base metals increased. Moreover, owing to the thermal alteration of sediment organic matter, organic acids, phenolic derivatives and phthlate were released to solution. Examination of solid alteration products revealed the effects of extensive dissolution and precipitation processes characterized by total elimination of diatoms and formation of cristobalite, quartz (?), pyrite, pyrrhotite, mixed layer chlorite/smectite and calcite. Plagioclase feldspar (An40) recrystallized to a more albitic form owing to Na fixation and Ca cycling to calcite. A graphitic residue was also present in the products of the experiment. Mg and Na fixation reactions during the experiment generated significant H+, although the pH measured at 25°C was approximately 6.2. SO4 reduction and thermal alteration and dissolution of organics, however, consume H+ and are chiefly responsible for the near neutral pH for the overall reaction. Speciation calculations including ammine and acetate protonation reactions give a pH at experimental conditions of approximately 5.1, while mineral solubility relations involving virtually all alteration phases require a pH of 5.57 to 5.94. A near neutral pH at experimental conditions constrains the mobility of Fe, Mn, Zn, Cu and Ni, which existed in solution as chloro-complexes. Dissolved concentrations of Pb and Al, in contrast, covaried with dissolved organics, especially acetate, suggesting organo-metallic complex formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1997-2010
Number of pages14
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1987

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
.&knowledgemen~s-We wish to thank Dr. I hercw 5. Bowcn. Robert Rosenbauer and an anonymous reviewefro r comments which greatly improved the paper. Thanks go fo Jefi’Serwald for assisting with speciation calculations and minerA soluhility relations at elevated temperatures and pressures and for con. tributing significantly to many aspects of the paper. funds were provided by NSF grant @X-85 105 I 7


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