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Fluid Inclusion Geothermometry in Sedimentary Systems: From Paleoclimate to Hydrothermal

Robert H. Goldstein
Robert H. Goldstein
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, 1-26 ESB, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E3, Canada
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January 01, 2012


Fluid inclusion geothermometry is useful for establishing detailed thermal histories of sedimentary rocks that cannot be gleaned from other techniques. The fluid inclusion technique requires careful attention to petrography and evaluation of thermal reequilibration. The fluid inclusion assemblage approach (FIA) is most important in evaluating the extent to which fluid inclusions have been altered.

Fluid inclusion geothermometry can be accomplished in both low- and high-temperature sedimentary systems. At low temperature, it can be used in paleoclimate work by generating bubbles from metastable inclusions, using cooling and femtosecond laser techniques. At elevated paleotemperature, homogenization temperatures (Th) can be measured from inclusions composed of high-temperature aqueous liquid without dissolved gas, high-temperature aqueous liquid with dissolved gas, gas, and petroleum. Given consistent FIAs and an understanding of the pressure-volume-temperature (PVT) relations for the inclusions, fluid inclusion Th data can be pressure-corrected given certain constraints.

Inclusions can be used to evaluate the detailed spatial, temporal, tectonic, and fluid composition history of a system that cannot be determined in other ways. Fluid inclusions are used as a tool for determining the maximum temperature achieved in a sample, but this commonly would be an underutilization of the data generated. Unlike other techniques, fluid inclusions can link thermal history to fluid flow, as a means of evaluating whether heating was associated with normal burial conditions, hydrothermal systems, or cool fluids flowing into warmer rocks. Hydrothermal systems can be identified when geothermometry indicates: (1) repeated increases and decreases in temperature inconsistent with the burial and unroofing history; (2) paleotemperatures higher than what the most liberal burial history analysis will allow; (3) paleogeothermal gradients or pressure-temperature data inconsistent with normal burial; (4) evidence for locally increased temperature at the same depth within a region; and (5) geothermometric evidence that higher temperatures are focused in fracture, fault, or stratigraphic conduits for paleofluid flow.

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SEPM Special Publication

Analyzing the Thermal History of Sedimentary Basins: Methods and Case Studies

Nicholas B. Harris
Nicholas B. Harris
University of Alberta
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Kenneth E. Peters
Kenneth E. Peters
Schlumberger and Stanford University
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SEPM Society for Sedimentary Geology
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Publication date:
January 01, 2012




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