Abstract

A three-dimensional (3D) geologic model of part of the northern Nevada rift encompassing the Beowawe geothermal system was developed from a series of two-dimensional (2D) geologic and geophysical models. The 3D model was constrained by local geophysical, geologic, and drill-hole information and integrates geologic and tectonic interpretations for the region. It places important geologic constraints on the extent and configuration of the active Beowawe geothermal system. The geologic framework represented in this model facilitates hydrologic modeling of the Beowawe geothermal system and evaluation of fluid flow in faults and adjacent rock units.

Basin depths were determined using an iterative gravity-inversion technique that calculates the thickness of low-density, basin-filling deposits. The remaining subsurface structure was modeled using 2D potential-field modeling software. Crustal cross sections from the 2D models were generalized for use in the 3D model and consist of six stratigraphic layers defined as low-density basin sediments, volcanic rocks, basalt-andesite rocks of the northern Nevada rift, Jurassic and Cretaceous intrusive rocks, and Paleozoic siliceous and carbonate sedimentary rocks of the upper and lower plates of the Roberts Mountains allochthon, respectively. This simplified stratigraphy was combined with mapped surface geology and was extrapolated across the 3D model area. Features along the northern Nevada rift depicted by the model may represent preexisting crustal structures that controlled the locations and character of Tertiary tectonic and magmatic events related to Basin and Range extension and emplacement of the middle Miocene northern Nevada rift. Several of the geologic features represented are important components of the Beowawe geothermal system. Prominent ENE-trending faults (e.g., Malpais fault) that bound the southern edge of Whirlwind Valley, and older NNW-striking faults (e.g., Dunphy Pass and Muleshoe faults) that form major features of the model, are likely important pathways for geothermal fluids and groundwater flow from the Humboldt River, which may recharge the Beowawe system.

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