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Structural Controls of the Tuscarora Geothermal Field, Elko County, Nevada

Gregory Dering
Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, University of Nevada, Reno, NV, USA
[email protected]

Tuscarora is an amagmatic geothermal system located ~90 km northwest of Elko, Nevada, in the northern part of the Basin and Range province ~15 km southeast of the Snake River Plain. Detailed geologic mapping, structural analysis, and well data have been integrated to identify the structural controls of the Tuscarora geothermal system. The structural framework of the geothermal field is defined by NNW- to NNE-striking normal faults that are approximately orthogonal to the present extension direction. Boiling springs, fumaroles, and siliceous sinter emanate from a single NNE-striking, west-dipping normal fault. Normal faults west of these hydrothermal features mostly dip steeply east, whereas normal faults east of the springs primarily dip west. Thus, the springs, fumaroles, and sinter straddle a zone of interaction between fault sets that dip toward each other, classified as a strike-parallel anticlinal accommodation zone. The geothermal field lies within a broad step over between the southward terminating west-dipping Bull Run fault zone and the northward terminating west-dipping Independence Mountains fault zone. The accommodation zone lies within the broad step over and contains both east-dipping antithetic and west-dipping synthetic faults. The recognition of this specific portion of an accommodation zone as a favorable structural setting for geothermal activity may be a useful exploration tool for development of drilling targets in extensional terranes, as well as for developing geologic models of known geothermal fields. This type of information may ultimately help to reduce the risks of targeting successful geothermal wells in such settings.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90157©2012 AAPG Foundation 2012 Grants-in-Aid Projects