Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Pablo Sánchez, Pamela Pérez-Flores , Gloria Arancibia , José Cembrano & Martin Reich (2013): Crustal deformation effects on the chemical evolution of geothermal systems: the intra-arc Liquiñe–Ofqui fault system, Southern Andes, International Geology Review, DOI:10.1080/00206814.2013.775731 (2012)

Crustal deformation effects on the chemical evolution of geothermal systems: the intra-arc Liquiñe–Ofqui fault system, Southern Andes

Revista : International Geology Review
Volumen : 55
Páginas : 1-17
Tipo de publicación : Publicaciones WOS sin afiliación UC Ir a publicación


A better understanding of the chemical evolution of fluids in geothermal and hydrothermal systems requires data-based knowledge regarding the interplay between active tectonics and fluid flow. The Southern Andes volcanic zone is one of the best natural laboratories to address this issue because of the occurrence of numerous geothermal areas, recent seismic activity generated by regional fault systems, and intense volcanic activity. Geothermal systems have been understudied in this area, and limited scientific information exists about the role of local kinematic conditions on fluid flow and mineralization during the development and evolution of geothermal reservoirs. In this study, we provide data for a 1:200,000 scale geological and structural map of the Villarrica–Chihuio area as a setting in which to perform a structural analysis of active geothermal areas.This structural analysis, combined with geochemical modelling of hot spring data, allows the identification of two magmatic tectonic-geothermal domains based on fault systems, volcanic activity, and lithologies. The Liquiñe–Ofqui fault system (LOFS) domain encompasses geothermal areas located either along the master or subsidiary faults. These are favourably orientated for shear and extension, respectively. In the LOFS domain, the geochemistry of hot spring discharges is controlled by interaction with the crystalline basement, and is characterized by low B/Cl conservative element ratios and high pH. In marked contrast, the arc-oblique long-lived fault systems (ALFS) domain includes geothermal occurrences located on the flanks of volcanoes forming WNW-trending alignments; these systems are built over faults that promote the development of crustal magma reservoirs. Unlike the first domain, the fluid chemistry of these geothermal discharges is strongly controlled by volcanic host rocks, and is typified by lower pH and higher B/Cl ratios. Reaction path modelling supports our model: chemical evolution of geothermal fluids in the Villarrica–Chihuio area is strongly dependent on structurally controlled mechanisms of heat transfer. Within this framework, heat transfer by conduction is responsible for the LOFS domain, whereas magmatically enhanced advective transport dominates heat flow in the ALFS domain. Although more studies are needed to constrain the complex interplay between tectonics and fluid flow, results from this study provide new insights towards efficient exploration strategies of geothermal resources in Southern Chile.