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Title: New Tracers of Gas Migration in the Continental Crust

Noble gases are exceptional tracers in continental settings due to the remarkable isotopic variability between the mantle, crust, and atmosphere, and because they are inert. Due to systematic variability in physical properties, such as diffusion, solubility, and production rates, the combination of helium, neon, and argon provides unique but under-utilized indices of gas migration. Existing noble gas data sets are dominated by measurements of gas and fluid phases from gas wells, ground waters and hot springs. There are very few noble gas measurements from the solid continental crust itself, which means that this important reservoir is poorly characterized. The central goal of this project was to enhance understanding of gas distribution and migration in the continental crust using new measurements of noble gases in whole rocks and minerals from existing continental drill cores, with an emphasis on helium, neon, argon. We carried out whole-rock and mineral-separate noble gas measurements on Precambrian basement samples from the Texas Panhandle. The Texas Panhandle gas field is the southern limb of the giant Hugoton-Panhandle oil and gas field; it has high helium contents (up to ~ 2 %) and 3He/4He of 0.21 (± 0.03) Ra. Because the total amount of helium in the Panhandlemore » gas field is relatively well known, crustal isotopic data and mass balance calculations can be used to constrain the ultimate source rocks, and hence the helium migration paths. The new 3He/4He data range from 0.03 to 0.11 Ra (total), all of which are lower than the gas field values. There is internal isotopic heterogeneity in helium, neon, and argon, within all the samples; crushing extractions yield less radiogenic values than melting, demonstrating that fluid inclusions preserve less radiogenic gases. The new data suggest that the Precambrian basement has lost significant amounts of helium, and shows the importance of measuring helium with neon and argon. The 4He/40Ar values are particularly useful in demonstrating helium loss because all the data falls well below the production ratio.« less
  1. Woods Hole Oceanographic Inst., MA (United States)
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Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, MA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Basic Energy Sciences (BES) (SC-22)
Country of Publication:
United States
58 GEOSCIENCES; 03 NATURAL GAS; 37 INORGANIC, ORGANIC, PHYSICAL, AND ANALYTICAL CHEMISTRY noble gases; helium; neon; argon; Precambrian; bedrock