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The Great Basin is a province of high average heat flow (approximately 90 mW m-2), with higher values characteristic of some areas and relatively low heat flow (<60 mW m-2) characteristic of an area in south-central Nevada known as the Eureka Low. There is hydrologie and thermal evidence that the Eureka Low results from a relatively shallow, hydrologically controlled heat sink associated with interbasin water flow in the Paleozoic carbonate aquifers. Evaluating this hypothesis and investigating the thermal state of the Eureka Low at depth is a high priority for the US Geological Survey as it prepares a new national geothermal resource assessment. Part of this investigation is focused on Railroad Valley, the site of the largest petroleum reservoirs in Nevada and one of the few locations within the Eureka Low with a known geothermal system. Temperature and thermal conductivity data have been acquired from wells in Railroad Valley in order to determine heat flow in the basin. The results reveal a complex interaction of cooling due to shallow ground-water flow, relatively low (49 to 76 mW m-2) conductive heat flow at depth in most of the basin, and high (up to 234 mW m-2) heat flow associated with the 125??C geothermal system that encompasses the Bacon Flat and Grant Canyon oil fields. The presence of the Railroad Valley geothermal resource within the Eureka Low may be reflect the absence of deep ground-water flow sweeping heat out of the basin. If true, this suggests that other areas in the carbonate aquifer province may contain deep geothermal resources that are masked by ground-water flow.
Additional Publication Details
Heat flow in Railroad Valley, Nevada and implications for geothermal resources in the south-central Great Basin
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GRC 2006 Annual Meeting: Geothermal Resources-Securing Our Energy Future