Serpentinization of forsteritic olivine results in the inorganic synthesis of molecular hydrogen (H2) in ultramafic hydrothermal systems (e.g., mid-ocean ridge and forearc environments). Inorganic carbon in those hydrothermal systems may react with H2 to produce methane (CH4) and other hydrocarbons or react with dissolved metal ions to form carbonate minerals. Here, we report serpentinization experiments at 200°C and 300 bar demonstrating Fe2+ being incorporated into carbonates more rapidly than Fe2+ oxidation (and concomitant H2 formation) leading to diminished yields of H2 and H2-dependent CH4. In addition, carbonate formation is temporally fast in carbonate oversaturated fluids. Our results demonstrate that carbonate chemistry ultimately modulates the abiotic synthesis of both H2 and CH4 in hydrothermal ultramafic systems and that ultramafic systems present great potential for CO2-mineral sequestration.
Additional publication details
Carbonate control of H2 and CH4 production in serpentinization systems at elevated P-Ts