Much has been published about double-diffusive convection as a mechanism for explaining variations in composition and temperature within all-liquid natural systems. However, relatively little is known about the applicability of this phenomenon within the heterogeneous rocks of currently active geothermal systems where primary porosity may control fluid flow in some places and fractures may control it in others. The main appeal of double-diffusive convection within hydrothermal systems is-that it is a mechanism that may allow efficient transfer of heat mainly by convection, while at the same time maintaining vertical and lateral salinity gradients. The Salton Sea geothermal system exhibits the following reservoir characteristics: (1) decreasing salinity and temperature from bottom to top and center toward the sides, (2) a very high heat flow from the top of the system that seems to require a major component of convective transfer of heat within the chemically stratified main reservoir, and (3) a relatively uniform density of the reservoir fluid throughout the system at all combinations of subsurface temperature, pressure, and salinity. Double-diffusive convection can account for these characteristics very nicely whereas other previously suggested models appear to account either for the thermal structure or for the salinity variations, but not both. Hydrologists, reservoir engineers, and particularly geochemists should consider the possibility and consequences of double-diffusive convection when formulating models of hydrothermal processes, and of the response of reservoirs to testing and production. ?? 1990.
Additional publication details
Double-diffusive convection in geothermal systems: the salton sea, California, geothermal system as a likely candidate