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Hydrothermal fluxes in the mantle lithosphere : An experimental study of the serpentinization process

Abstract : The hydrothermal alteration of the mantle lithosphere at mid-ocean ridges provides a mechanism for transferring heat and mass between the deep Earth and the overlaying ocean. The mantle lithosphere is constituted by ultramafic rocks, also called Peridotites. They comprise more than 70% of olivine, associated pyroxenes and minor mineral phases. The percolation of seawater into the ultramafic basement produces the alteration of olivine and pyroxenes to serpentine through the so-called serpentinization process and is associated to oxidation and carbonation reactions, the later when CO2 is present. The serpentinization process has special interest on H2 production, CO2 storage, development of life, and the production of economically valuable ore-deposits concentrated at hydrothermal vents. The sustainability and efficiency of the reactions requires penetration and renewal of fluids at the mineral-fluid interface. Oceanic detachment faults and fractures are the highly permeable zones allowing seawater derived fluids to penetrate deeply into the mantle lithosphere. However, the serpentinization process lead to the precipitation of low density minerals that can fill the porous network, clogging flow paths efficiently that may in turn modify the hydrodynamic properties and the reactivity of the reacted rocks.This PhD thesis aims at better understanding the feedback effects of chemical reactions on the hydrodynamic rock properties occurred on highly permeable zones during the earliest stages of alteration of the ultramafic basement. It focuses in particular on the changes in texture and chemical reaction paths of ultramafic rocks by assessing the effects of (i) flow rate and (ii) CO2-rich saline fluids. Two suite of reactive percolation experiments were performed at T=170-190°C and P=25MPa. The first suite of experiments consisted in injecting artificial seawater into porous compressed olivine powder cores over a wide range of constant flow rates. X-Ray µ-tomography of high resolution was acquired before and after the experiment run with high flow rates; in order to evaluate the micro-structural changes of the rock occurred during the serpentinization reaction. The second suite of experiments consisted in injecting CO2-rich saline fluids into peridotite cores mechanically fractured.The results allowed us to differentiate: (1) That, a control of flow infiltration rate at the pore-scale can control the local fluid compositions and the development of different reaction paths at the sample-scale. (2) The development of different reaction paths and textural changes in the rock depends on the concentration of CO2 dissolved in solution. (3) The formation of carbonate minerals (MgCO3) can store CO2 in a form of stable mineral at long-term. (4) A control of the concentration of dissolved CO2(g) and the fracture network can enhance/limit the efficiency of CO2-storage in peridotite fractured reservoirs.These new supporting data suggest a complex control of the structure of the ultramafic rocks in serpentinization process and provides new insights for the potential CO2-storage in peridotite fractured reservoirs.
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Sofia Escario Perez. Hydrothermal fluxes in the mantle lithosphere : An experimental study of the serpentinization process. Earth Sciences. Université Montpellier, 2018. English. ⟨NNT : 2018MONTG030⟩. ⟨tel-01928017⟩

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