Dissolved noble gases and stable isotopes as tracers of preferential fluid flow along faults in the Lower Rhine Embayment, Germany

Gumm, L. P., Bense, V. F., Dennis, P. F. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0307-4406, Hiscock, K. M. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4505-1496, Cremer, N. and Simon, S. (2016) Dissolved noble gases and stable isotopes as tracers of preferential fluid flow along faults in the Lower Rhine Embayment, Germany. Hydrogeology Journal, 24 (1). pp. 99-108. ISSN 1431-2174

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Groundwater in shallow unconsolidated sedimentary aquifers close to the Bornheim fault in the Lower Rhine Embayment (LRE), Germany, has relatively low δ2H and δ18O values in comparison to regional modern groundwater recharge, and 4He concentrations up to 1.7 × 10−4 cm3 (STP) g–1 ± 2.2 % which is approximately four orders of magnitude higher than expected due to solubility equilibrium with the atmosphere. Groundwater age dating based on estimated in situ production and terrigenic flux of helium provides a groundwater residence time of ∼107 years. Although fluid exchange between the deep basal aquifer system and the upper aquifer layers is generally impeded by confining clay layers and lignite, this study’s geochemical data suggest, for the first time, that deep circulating fluids penetrate shallow aquifers in the locality of fault zones, implying  that sub-vertical fluid flow occurs along faults in the LRE. However, large hydraulic-head gradients observed across many faults suggest that they act as barriers to lateral groundwater flow. Therefore, the geochemical data reported here also substantiate a conduit-barrier model of fault-zone hydrogeology in unconsolidated sedimentary deposits, as well as corroborating the concept that faults in unconsolidated aquifer systems can act as loci for hydraulic connectivity between deep and shallow aquifers. The implications of fluid flow along faults in sedimentary basins worldwide are far reaching and of particular concern for carbon capture and storage (CCS) programmes, impacts of deep shale gas recovery for shallow groundwater aquifers, and nuclear waste storage sites where fault zones could act as potential leakage pathways for hazardous fluids.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http:// creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made
Uncontrolled Keywords: fault zone hydrogeology,germany,hydrochemistry,noble gases,unconsolidated sedimentary aquifers
Faculty \ School:
Faculty of Science > School of Environmental Sciences
Faculty of Science
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Science > Research Groups > Geosciences
Faculty of Social Sciences > Research Centres > Water Security Research Centre
Faculty of Science > Research Groups > Centre for Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Pure Connector
Date Deposited: 05 Feb 2016 15:00
Last Modified: 13 Apr 2023 13:48
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/56976
DOI: 10.1007/s10040-015-1321-7


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