Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)




Dennis L. Newell


The Mountain Home (MH) geothermal system of the western Snake River Plain (SRP) magmatic province was discovered in 2012 by the Snake River Geothermal Drilling Project. Artesian flowing water with a temperature of 150°C was encountered at a depth of 1745 m below ground surface (mbgs) and extensive mineralized fracture networks of pectolite-prehnite, calcite, and laumontite were discovered in the recovered core. The objectives of this study are to: 1) describe the thermal and compositional history of past geothermal fluids, and 2) compare these fluids to modern fluids in order to characterize the evolution of the MH geothermal system and the geothermal potential of the western SRP. Core observations, thin section petrography, X-ray diffraction, and Electron Microprobe analyses were performed in order to describe mineral parageneses of various alteration zones. Carbon and oxygen stable isotope ratios along with temperatures of homogenization from fluid inclusions in hydrothermally precipitated calcite were measured along ~100 m of basalt core from 1709-1809 mbgs. The d13CPDB values in calcite range from -7.2 to -0.43 ‰ and d18OPDB values range between -20.5 and -15.9 ‰. An anomalous zone from 1722-1725 m depth displays a range in d13CPDB and d18OPDB of -1.9 to +0.88 ‰ and -17.1 to -8.1 ‰, respectively, suggesting non-equilibrium fractionation due to boiling. Carbon isotopic ratios suggest a mixture of deep-seated mantle derived and meteoric fluids. Fluid inclusion microthermometry has identified primary inclusions with trapping temperatures ranging from 168-368°C. A calcite-water geothermometer used to calculate paleo-fluid oxygen isotopic composition (-0.43 to +7.2 ‰ SMOW) and a comparison with present-day fluid oxygen isotopic composition (-3.2 ‰ SMOW) reveals a cooling trend with potential mixing of meteoric waters and deeply derived fluid. The MH geothermal system has cooled over time and reflects potentially less, if any magmatic fluid input presently into the system as there was in the past.