Technical Report NTB 12-07

Geochemical Synthesis for the Effingen Member in Boreholes at Oftringen, Gösgen and Küttigen

The Effingen Member is a low-permeability rock unit of Oxfordian age (ca. 160 Ma) that occurs across northern Switzerland. It comprises sandy calcareous marls and (argillaceous) limestones. This report describes the hydrogeochemistry, mineralogy and supporting physical properties of the Effingen Member in three boreholes in the Jura-Südfuss area: Oftringen, Gösgen and Küttigen, where it is 220 – 240 m thick. The top of the Effingen Member is at 420, 66 and 32 m depths at the three sites. Core materials are available from Oftringen and Gösgen, whereas information from Küttigen is limited to cuttings, in-situ hydrogeological testing and geophysical logging.

Hydrogeological boundaries of the Effingen Member vary between locations. Ground-water flows were identified during drilling at the top (Geissberg Member), but not at the base, of the Effingen Member at Oftringen, at the base (Hauptrogenstein Formation) of the Effingen Member at Gösgen, and in a limestone layer (Gerstenhübel Beds) within the Effingen Member at Küttigen.

The marls and limestones of the Effingen Member have carbonate contents of 46 – 91 wt.-% and clay-mineral contents of 5 – 37 wt.-%. Pyrite contents are up to 1.6 wt.-%, but no sulphate minerals were detected by routine analyses. Clay minerals are predominantly mixed-layer illite-smectite, illite and kaolinite, with sporadic traces of chlorite and smectite. Veins filled with calcite ± celestite occur through the Effingen Member at Oftringen but not at Gösgen or Küttigen. They formed at 50 – 70 ºC from externally derived fluids, probably of Miocene age. Water contents are 0.7 – 4.2 wt.-%, corresponding to a water-loss porosity range of 1.9 – 10.8 vol.-%. Specific surface areas, measured by the BET method, are 2 – 30 m2/g, correlating with clay-mineral contents.

Water activity has been measured and yielded surprisingly low values down to 0.8. These cannot be explained by pore-water salinity alone and include other effects, such as changes in the fabric due to stress release or partial saturation. Observed variations in measurements are not fully understood.

Cation exchange capacity (CEC) and exchangeable cation populations have been studied by the Ni-en method. CEC, derived from the consumption of the index cation Ni, is 9 – 99 meq/kgrock at a solid:liquid ratio of 1, correlating with the clay-mineral content. Cation concentrations in Ni-en extract solutions are in the order Na+ ≥ Ca2+ > Mg2+ > K+ > Sr2+. However, the analytical results from the Ni-en extractions have additional contributions from cations originating from pore water and from mineral dissolution reactions that occurred during extraction, and it was not possible to reliably quantify these contributions. Therefore, in-situ cation populations and selectivity coefficients could not be derived.

A suite of methods have been used for characterising the chemical compositions of pore waters in the Effingen Member. Advective displacement was used on one sample from each Oftringen and Gösgen and is the only method that produces results that approach complete hydrochemical compositions. Aqueous extraction was used on core samples from these two boreholes and gives data only for Cl- and, in some cases, Br-. Out-diffusion was used on core samples from Oftringen and similarly gives data for Cl- and Br- only. For both aqueous extraction and out-diffusion, reaction of the experimental water with rock affected concentrations of cations, SO42- and alkalinity in experimental solutions. Another method, centrifugation, failed to extract pore water.

Stable isotope ratios (d18O and d2H) of pore waters in core samples from Oftringen were ana­lysed by the diffusive exchange method and helium contents of pore water in Oftringen samples were extracted for mass spectrometric analysis by quantitative outgassing of preserved core samples.

Several lines of evidence indicate that drillcore samples might not have been fully saturated when opened and subsampled in the laboratory. These include comparisons of water-loss porosities with physical porosities, water-activity measurements, and high contents of dissolved gas as inferred from ground-water samples. There is no clear proof of partial saturation and it is unclear whether this might represent in-situ conditions or is due to exsolution of gas due to the pressure release since drilling. Partial saturation would have no impact on the recalculation of pore-water compositions from aqueous extraction experiments using water-loss porosity data.

The largest uncertainty in the pore-water Cl- concentrations recalculated from aqueous extraction and out-diffusion experiments is the magnitude of the anion-accessible fraction of water-loss porosity. General experience of clay-mineral rich formations suggests that the anion-accessible porosity fraction is very often about 0.5 and generally in a range of 0.3 to 0.6 and tends to be inversely correlated with clay-mineral contents. Comparisons of the Cl- concentra­tion in pore water obtained by advective displacement with that recalculated from aqueous extraction of an adjacent core sample suggests a fraction of 0.27 for an Oftringen sample, whereas the same procedure for a Gösgen sample suggests a value of 0.64. The former value for anion-accessible porosity fraction is presumed to be unrepresentative given the local mineralogical heterogeneity at that depth. Through-diffusion experiments with HTO and 36Cl- suggest that the anion-accessible porosity fraction in the Effingen Member at Oftringen and Gösgen is around 0.5. This value is proposed as a typical average for rocks of the Effingen Member, bearing in mind that it varies on a local scale in response to the heterogeneity of lithology and pore-space architecture. The substantial uncertainties associated with the approaches to estimating anion-accessible porosity propagate into the calculated values of in-situ pore-water Cl- concentrations.

On the basis of aqueous extraction experiments, and using an anion-accessible porosity fraction of 0.5, Cl- concentrations in the Effingen Member at Oftringen reach a maximum of about 14 g/L in the centre. Cl- decreases upwards and downwards from that, forming a curved depth profile. Cl- contents in the Effingen Member at Gösgen increase with depth from about 3.5 g/L to about 14 g/L at the base of the cored profile (which corresponds to the centre of the forma­tion). Out-diffusion experiments were carried out on four samples from Oftringen, distributed through the Effingen Member. Recalculated Cl- concentrations are similar to those from aqueous extraction for 3 out of the 4 samples, and somewhat lower for one sample. Concentra­tions of other components, i.e. Na+, K+, Ca2+, Mg2+, Sr2+, SO42- and HCO3- cannot be obtained from the aqueous extraction and out-diffusion experimental data because of mineral dissolution and cation exchange reactions during the experiments. Pore-water pH also is not constrained by those extraction experiments.

The only experimental approach to obtain complete pore-water compositions for samples from Oftringen and Gösgen is advective displacement of pore water. The sample from Oftringen used for this experiment is from 445 m depth in the upper part of the Effingen Member and gave eluate with 16.5 g/L Cl- whereas aqueous extraction from a nearby sample indicated about 9 g/L Cl-. The sample from Gösgen used for advective displacement is from 123 m depth in the centre of the Effingen Member sequence and gave eluate with about 9 g/L Cl- whereas aqueous extraction gave 11.5 g/L Cl-. In both cases the pore waters have Na-(Ca)-Cl compositions and SO42-concentrations of about 1.1 g/L. The Gösgen sample has a Br/Cl ratio similar to that of sea water, whereas this ratio is lower for the Oftringen sample.

Taking account of uncertainties in the applied experimental approaches, it is reasonable to place an upper limit of ca. 20 g/L on Cl- concentration for pore water in the Effingen Member in this area.

There are major discrepancies between pore-water SO42- concentrations inferred from aqueous extraction or out-diffusion experiments and those obtained from advective displacement in both the Oftringen and Gösgen cases. A general conclusion is that all or at least part of the dis­crepancies are attributable to perturbation of the sulphur system and enhancement of SO42- by sulphate mineral dissolution and possibly minor pyrite oxidation during aqueous extraction and out-diffusion. Therefore, data for SO42- calculated from those pore-water sampling methods are considered not to be representative of in-situ conditions.

A reference pore-water composition was defined for the Effingen Member in the Jura Südfuss area. It represents the probable upper limits of Cl- contents and corresponding anion and cation concentrations that are reasonably constrained by experimental data. Except for Cl- and possibly Na+ concentrations, this composition is poorly constrained especially with respect to SO42- and Ca2+ concentrations, and pH and alkalinity.

Stable isotope compositions, δ18O and δ2H, of pore waters in the Effingen Member at Oftringen plot to the right of the meteoric water line, suggesting that 18O has been enriched by water-rock exchange, which indicates that the pore waters have a long residence time. A long residence time of pore water is supported by the level of dissolved 4He that has accumulated in pore water of the Effingen Member at Oftringen. This is comparable with, or slightly higher than, the amounts of 4He in the Opalinus Clay at Benken.

Ground waters were sampled from flowing zones intersected by boreholes at the three locations. The general interpretation is that pore waters and ground-water solutes may have similar origins in Mesozoic and Cenozoic brackish-marine formations waters, but ground-water solutes have been diluted rather more than pore waters by ingress of Tertiary and Quaternary meteoric waters.

The available hydrochemical data for pore waters from the Effingen Member at these three locations in the Jura-Südfuss area suggest that the geochemical system evolved slowly over geological periods of time, in which diffusion was an important mechanism of solute transport. The irregularity of Cl- and δ18O profiles and spatial variability of advective ground-water flows in the Malm – Dogger system suggests that palaeohydrogeological and hydrochemical respon­ses to changing tectonic and surface environmental conditions were complex.