Gas and Isotope Geochemistry of 81 Steam Samples from Wells in The Geysers Geothermal Field, Sonoma and Lake Counties, California

Open-File Report 99-304

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The Geysers geothermal field in northern California, with about 2000-MW electrical capacity, is the largest geothermal field in the world. Despite its importance as a resource and as an example of a vapor-dominated reservoir, very few complete geochemical analyses of the steam have been published (Allen and Day, 1927; Truesdell and others, 1987). This report presents data from 90 steam, gas, and condensate samples from wells in The Geysers geothermal field in northern California. Samples were collected between 1978 and 1991. Well attributes include sampling date, well name, location, total depth, and the wellhead temperature and pressure at which the sample was collected. Geochemical characteristics include the steam/gas ratio, composition of noncondensable gas (relative proportions of CO2, H2S, He, H2, O2, Ar, N2, CH4, and NH3), and isotopic values for deltaD and delta18O of H2O, delta13C of CO2, and delta34S of H2S. The compilation includes 81 analyses from 74 different production wells, 9 isotopic analyses of steam condensate pumped into injection wells, and 5 complete geochemical analyses on gases from surface fumaroles and bubbling pools. Most samples were collected as saturated steam and plot along the liquid-water/steam boiling curve. Steam-togas ratios are highest in the southeastern part of the geothermal field and lowest in the northwest, consistent with other studies. Wells in the Northwest Geysers are also enriched in N2/Ar, CO2 and CH4, deltaD, and delta18O. Well discharges from the Southeast Geysers are high in steam/gas and have isotopic compositions and N2/Ar ratios consistent with recharge by local meteoric waters. Samples from the Central Geysers show characteristics found in both the Southeast and Northwest Geysers. Gas and steam characteristics of well discharges from the Northwest Geysers are consistent with input of components from a high-temperature reservoir containing carbonrich gases derived from the host Franciscan rocks. Throughout the geothermal field, the carbon-isotopic composition of CO2 is consistent with derivation of carbon from Franciscan metasedimentary rocks. NH3 concentrations are high in most Geysers well fluids, and are 2-3 orders of magnitude greater than would be expected in a the gas phase exhibiting homogeneous equilibrium at normal reservoir temperatures and pressures. Evidently, NH3 is flushed from the Franciscan host rocks at a rate that exceeds the reaction rate for NH3 breakdown. Many wells show clear influence by fluids from reinjection wells where steam condensate has been pumped back into the geothermal reservoir. Six wells were resampled over the time period of this study. One of these six wells was strongly affected by a nearby injection well. Three of the six resampled wells showed some signs of decreasing liquid/ steam within the geothermal reservoir, consistent with 'drying out' of the reservoir due to steam withdrawal. However, two wells exhibited little change. Analyses of gases from five surface manifestations (fumaroles and bubbling pools) are roughly similar to the deeper geothermal samples in both chemical and isotopic composition, but are lower in soluble gases that dissolve in groundwater during transit toward the surface.

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USGS Numbered Series
Gas and Isotope Geochemistry of 81 Steam Samples from Wells in The Geysers Geothermal Field, Sonoma and Lake Counties, California
Series title:
Open-File Report
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Version 1.0
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U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s):
Volcano Hazards Program
Report: 28 p.; Data Tables (xls)
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