Observations of large salinity variations and vent temperatures in the range of 380-400??C suggest that boiling or two-phase separation may be occurring in some seafloor geothermal systems. Consideration of flow rates and the relatively small differences in density between vapors and liquids at the supercritical pressures at depth in these systems suggests that boiling is occurring under closed-system conditions. Salinity and temperature of boiling vents can be used to estimate the pressure-temperature point in the subsurface at which liquid seawater first reached the two-phase boundary. Data are reviewed to construct phase diagrams of coexisting brines and vapors in the two-phase region at pressures corresponding to those of the seafloor geothermal systems. A method is developed for calculating the enthalpy and entropy of the coexisting mixtures, and results are used to construct adiabats from the seafloor to the P-T two-phase boundary. Results for seafloor vents discharging at 2300 m below sea level indicate that a 385??C vent is composed of a brine (7% NaCl equivalent) in equilibrium with a vapor (0.1% NaCl). Brine constitutes 45% by weight of the mixture, and the fluid first boiled at approximately 1 km below the seafloor at 415??C, 330 bar. A 400??C vent is primarily vapor (88 wt.%, 0.044% NaCl) with a small amount of brine (26% NaCl) and first boiled at 2.9 km below the seafloor at 500??C, 520 bar. These results show that adiabatic decompression in the two-phase region results in dramatic cooling of the fluid mixture when there is a large fraction of vapor. ?? 1985.
Additional publication details
Phase relations and adiabats in boiling seafloor geothermal systems