Abstract

La Primavera geothermal field (Mexico) is associated with a Pleistocene rhyolitic caldera. This gravity study was conducted to assist its development and explotation. Digital processing of the gravity data (upward and downward continuations, vertical derivatives) enabled delineation of the main features of the caldera's subsurficial structure. A 3-D structural model was established, which could be supported by gravity modeling (2-D and 3-D forward modeling). Accordingly, the caldera is featured by an asymmetric subsurface structure: a major depression in its northern half, and a boomerang-shaped structural high to the south. Lineaments reflecting the regional northwest-southeast and northeast-southwest structural fabric were observed. The basal volcanics units are affected by lineaments of the northwest-southeast system, whereas the northeast-southwest system affects only the shallower units. The structural high has a northwest-southeast trend at the western and south-western portion of the caldera. From its middle part eastward, it has a northeast-southwest direction. The actual geothermal production zone is located above this structural high, on the portion where it changes orientation. Correlation with hydrogeological and geochemical data enabled interpreting the different geologic structures in the context of the hydrothermal system: at depth the northwest-southeast structures seem to control lateral fluid migration, and connect areas of enhanced permeability (i.e., the central production zone and the hydrothermal manifestations located at the caldera's western rim). Enhanced zones of fracturing favorable for entrapping hydrothermal fluids and structural accidents that may act as conduits (respectively as barriers) for fluids are delineated. In particular, a new target zone, where the production of geothermal fluids may extend, has been identified to the south of the production zone. The structural image elaborated here constitutes a geologic frame for the prevailing hydrogeological conceptual model. This structural information is also useful for the tasks of selecting sites for the reinjection of geothermal brines.

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