High CO2 emissions through porous media: Transport mechanisms and implications for flux measurement and fractionation

Chemical Geology
By: , and 



Diffuse emissions of CO2 are known to be large around some volcanoes and hydrothermal areas. Accumulation-chamber measurements of CO2 flux are increasingly used to estimate the total magmatic or metamorphic CO2 released from such areas. To assess the performance of accumulation chamber systems at fluxes one to three orders of magnitude higher than normally encountered in soil respiration studies, a test system was constructed in the laboratory where known fluxes could be maintained through dry sand. Steady-state gas concentration profiles and fractionation effects observed in the 30-cm sand column nearly match those predicted by the Stefan-Maxwell equations, indicating that the test system was functioning successfully as a uniform porous medium. Eight groups of investigators tested their accumulation chamber equipment, all configured with continuous infrared gas analyzers (IRGA), in this system. Over a flux range of ∼200–12,000 g m−2day−1, 90% of their 203 flux measurements were 0–25% lower than the imposed flux with a mean difference of −12.5%. Although this difference would seem to be within the range of acceptability for many geologic investigations, some potential sources for larger errors were discovered. A steady-state pressure gradient of −20 Pa/m was measured in the sand column at a flux of 11,200 g m−2 day−1. The derived permeability (50 darcies) was used in the dusty-gas model (DGM) of transport to quantify various diffusive and viscous flux components. These calculations were used to demonstrate that accumulation chambers, in addition to reducing the underlying diffusive gradient, severely disrupt the steady-state pressure gradient. The resultant diversion of the net gas flow is probably responsible for the systematically low flux measurements. It was also shown that the fractionating effects of a viscous CO2 efflux against a diffusive influx of air will have a major impact on some important geochemical indicators, such as N2/Ar, δ15N–N2, and 4He/22Ne.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title High CO2 emissions through porous media: Transport mechanisms and implications for flux measurement and fractionation
Series title Chemical Geology
DOI 10.1016/S0009-2541(00)00379-X
Volume 177
Issue 1-2
Year Published 2001
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Description 15 p.
First page 15
Last page 29