Abstract

The origin of collapse structures and breccias that vertically penetrate or occur within impermeable evaporites has never really been understood. The density of the brine that develops as salt deposits are dissolved can generate continuous gravitational brine movement. If the source of the dissolving water is artesian, or continuous, a flow cycle is developed in which the salt itself supplies the density gradient that becomes the vehicle of its own dissolution. The Delaware Basin in western Texas and southeastern New Mexico provides a particularly good example of how brine density flow can produce dissolution chambers that collapse to form breccias. The potential for dissolution by brine flow is an inherent property of partly exhumed evaporites and may constitute a risk factor in the storage of radioactive waste in evaporite deposits.

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