On the use of Li isotopes as a proxy for water–rock interaction in fractured crystalline rocks: A case study from the Gotthard rail base tunnel

Wanner, Christoph; Bucher, Kurt; Pogge von Strandmann, Philip A.E.; Waber, Niklaus; Pettke, Thomas (2017). On the use of Li isotopes as a proxy for water–rock interaction in fractured crystalline rocks: A case study from the Gotthard rail base tunnel. Geochimica et cosmochimica acta, 198, pp. 396-418. Elsevier Science 10.1016/j.gca.2016.11.003

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We present Li isotope measurements of groundwater samples collected during drilling of the 57 km long Gotthard rail base tunnel in Switzerland, to explore the use of Li isotope measurements for tracking water–rock interactions in fractured crystalline rocks at temperatures of up to 43 °C. The 17 groundwater samples originate from water-conducting fractures within two specific crystalline rock units, which are characterized by a similar rock mineralogy, but significantly different fluid composition. In particular, the aqueous Li concentrations observed in samples from the two units vary from 1–4 mg/L to 0.01–0.02 mg/L. Whereas d7Li values from the unit with high Li concentrations are basically constant (d7Li = 8.5–9.1‰), prominent variations are recorded for the samples from the unit with low Li concentrations (d7Li = 10–41‰). This observation demonstrates that Li isotope fractionation can be highly sensitive to aqueous Li concentrations. Moreover, d7Li values from the unit with low Li concentrations correlate well with reaction progress parameters such as pH and [Li]/[Na] ratios, suggesting that d7Li values are mainly controlled by the residence time of the fracture groundwater. Consequently, 1D reactive transport modeling was performed to simulate mineral reactions and associated Li isotope fractionation along a water conducting fracture system using the code TOUGHREACT. Modeling results confirm the residence time hypothesis and demonstrate that the absence of d7Li variation at high Li concentrations can be well explained by limitation of the amount of Li that is incorporated into secondary minerals. Modeling results also suggest that Li uptake by kaolinite forms the key process to cause Li isotope fractionation in the investigated alkaline system (pH >9), and that under slow flow conditions (<10 m/year), this process is associated with a very large Li isotope fractionation factor (ε ≈ −50‰). Moreover, our simulations demonstrate that for simple and well-defined systems with known residence times and low Li concentrations, d7Li values may help to quantify mineral reaction rates if more thermodynamic data about the temperature-dependent incorporation of Li in secondary minerals as well as corresponding fractionation factors become available in the future. In conclusion, d7Li values may be a powerful tool to track water–rock interaction in fractured crystalline rocks at temperature higher than thoseat the Earth’s surface, although their use is restricted to low Li concentrations and well defined flow systems.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences > Rock-Water Interaction

UniBE Contributor:

Wanner, Christoph; Waber, Niklaus and Pettke, Thomas

Subjects:

500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology

ISSN:

0016-7037

Publisher:

Elsevier Science

Language:

English

Submitter:

Christoph Wanner

Date Deposited:

30 Jan 2017 17:34

Last Modified:

12 May 2020 08:18

Publisher DOI:

10.1016/j.gca.2016.11.003

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.91642

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/91642

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