Geochemistry of low-molecular weight hydrocarbons in hydrothermal fluids from Middle Valley, northern Juan de Fuca Ridge
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Hydrothermal vent fluids from Middle Valley, a sediment-covered mid-ocean ridge on the northern Juan de Fuca Ridge, were sampled in July, 2000. Eight different vents with exit temperatures of 186 to 281°C were sampled from two areas of venting: the Dead Dog and ODP Mound fields. Fluids from the Dead Dog field are characterized by higher concentrations of ΣNH3 and organic compounds (C1-C4 alkanes, ethene, propene, benzene and toluene) compared with fluids from the ODP Mound field. The ODP Mound fluids, however, are characterized by higher C1/(C2+C3) and benzene:toluene ratios than those from the Dead Dog field. The aqueous organic compounds in these fluids have been derived from both bacterial processes (methanogenesis in low-temperature regions during recharge) as well as from thermogenic processes in higher-temperature portions of the subsurface reaction zone. As the sediments undergo hydrothermal alteration, carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons are released to solution as organic matter degrades via a stepwise oxidation process. Compositional and isotopic differences in the aqueous hydrocarbons indicate that maximum subsurface temperatures at the ODP Mound are greater than those at the Dead Dog field. Maximum subsurface temperatures were calculated assuming that thermodynamic equilibrium is attained between alkenes and alkanes, benzene and toluene, and carbon dioxide and methane. The calculated temperatures for alkene-alkane equilibrium are consistent with differences in the dissolved Cl concentrations in fluids from the two fields, and indicate that subsurface temperatures at the ODP Mound are hotter than those at the Dead Dog field. Temperatures calculated assuming benzene-toluene equilibrium and carbon dioxide-methane equilibrium are similar to observed exit temperatures, and do not record the hottest subsurface conditions. The difference in subsurface temperatures estimated using organic geochemical thermometers reflects subsurface cooling processes via mixing of a hot, low-salinity vapor with a cooler, seawater salinity fluid. Because of the disparate temperature dependence of alkene-alkane and benzene-toluene equilibria, the mixed fluid records both the high and low temperature equilibrium conditions. These calculations indicate that vapor-rich fluids are presently being formed in the crust beneath the ODP Mound, yet do not reach the surface due to mixing with the lower-temperature fluids.
Author Posting. © Elsevier B.V., 2006. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of Elsevier B.V. for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 70 (2006): 2073-2092, doi:10.1016/j.gca.2006.01.015.