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An Integrated Multidisciplinary Re-Evaluation of the Geothermal System at Valles Caldera, New Mexico, Using an Immersive Three-Dimensional (3D) Visualization Environment

Wildgoose, Maya; Bennett, Scott; Fowler, Andrew; and Cantwell, Carolyn
[email protected]

We used a unique approach to explore the spatial relationships of a geothermal resource by examining diverse geological, geophysical, and geochemical data sets using the immersive 3-dimensional (3D) visualization capabilities of the UC Davis Keck Center for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences (KeckCAVES). The KeckCAVES is a facility where stereoscopic images are projected onto four, surfaces (three walls and a floor), which the user perceives as a seamless 3D image of the data. The user can manipulate and interact with the data, allowing a more intuitive interpretation of data set relationships than is possible with traditional 2-dimensional techniques. We incorporate multiple data sets of the geothermal system at Valles Caldera, New Mexico: topography, lithology, faults, temperature, alteration mineralogy, and magnetotellurics. With the ability to rapidly and intuitively observe data relationships, we are able to efficiently and rapidly draw conclusions about the subsurface architecture of the Valles Caldera geothermal system. We identify two high-temperature anomalies, one that corresponds with normal faults along the western caldera ring fracture, and one that with the resurgent dome. A cold-temperature anomaly identified adjacent to the resurgent dome high-temperature anomaly appears to relate to a fault controlled graben valley that acts as a recharge zone, likely funneling cold meteoric water into the subsurface along normal faults observed on published maps and cross sections. These high-temperature anomalies broadly correspond to subsurface regions where previous magnetotelluric studies have identified low apparent resistivity. Existing hot springs in the Sulfur Springs area correspond to the only location where our modeled 100°C isotherm intersects the ground surface. Correlation between the first occurrence of key alteration minerals (pyrite, chlorite, epidote) in previously drilled boreholes and our temperature model vary, with chlorite showing a strong correlation with a model temperature of ~120°C. In summary, the application of immersive 3D modeling can provide industry with a method to make informed assessments of the location and volume of a geothermal system and a cost-effective approach during exploration and development.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90162©2013 Pacific Section AAPG, SPE and SEPM Joint Technical Conference, Monterey, California, April 19-25, 2013