Fault-controlled CO2 leakage from natural reservoirs in the Colorado Plateau, East-Central Utah

Na Hyun Jung, Weon Shik Han, Z. T. Watson, Jack P. Graham, Kue Young Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


The study investigated a natural analogue for soil CO2 fluxes where CO2 has naturally leaked on the Colorado Plateau, East-Central Utah in order to identify various factors that control CO2 leakage and to understand regional-scale CO2 leakage processes in fault systems. The total 332 and 140 measurements of soil CO2 flux were made at 287 and 129 sites in the Little Grand Wash (LGW) and Salt Wash (SW) fault zones, respectively. Measurement sites for CO2 flux involved not only conspicuous CO2 degassing features (e.g., CO2-driven springs/geysers) but also linear features (e.g., joints/fractures and areas of diffusive leakage around a fault damage zone). CO2 flux anomalies were mostly observed along the fault traces. Specifically, CO2 flux anomalies were focused in the northern footwall of the both LGW and SW faults, supporting the existence of north-plunging anticlinal CO2 trap against south-dipping faults as well as higher probability of the north major fault traces as conduits. Anomalous CO2 fluxes also appeared in active travertines adjacent to CO2-driven cold springs and geysers (e.g., 36,259 gm-2d-1 at Crystal Geyser), ancient travertines (e.g., 5,917 gm-2d-1), joint zones in sandstone (e.g., 120 gm-2d-1), and brine discharge zones (e.g., 5,515 gm-2d-1). These observations indicate that CO2 has escaped through those pathways and that CO2 leakage from these fault zones does not correspond to point source leakage. The magnitude of CO2 flux is progressively reduced from north (i.e. the LGW fault zone, ~36,259 gm-2d-1) to south (i.e. the SW fault zone, ~1,428 gm-2d-1) despite new inputs of CO2 and CO2-saturated brine to the northerly SW fault from depth. This discrepancy in CO2 flux is most likely resulting from the differences in fault zone architecture and associated permeability structure. CO2-rich fluids from the LGW fault zone may become depleted with respect to CO2 during lateral transport, resulting in an additional decrease in CO2 fluxes within the SW fault zone. In other words, CO2 and CO2-charged brine originating from the LGW fault zone could migrate southward over 10-20 km through a series of high-permeable aquifers (e.g., Entrada, Navajo, Kayenta, Wingate, and White Rim Sandstones). These CO2-rich fluids could finally reach the southernmost Tumbleweed and Chaffin Ranch Geysers across the SW fault zone. The potential lateral transport of both CO2 and CO2-laden brine can be further supported by similar CO2/3He and 3He/4He ratios of gas and a systematic chemical evolution of water emitted from the regional springs and geysers, which suggest the same crustal origins of CO2 and CO2-rich brine for the region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)358-367
Number of pages10
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Oct 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We appreciate two anonymous reviewers for their constructive suggestions. All financial support for this research was provided by both National Science Foundation ( EAR-1246404 ) and Korea National Oil Corporation funded by the Korea Institute of Energy Technology Evaluation and Planning ( 2011T100100331 ). We also appreciate Cheng Thao's great help during field work.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Fault-controlled CO2 leakage from natural reservoirs in the Colorado Plateau, East-Central Utah'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this