Renewable Energy, Vol.148, 284-297, 2020
Radiogenic heat production variations in the Gonghe basin, northeastern Tibetan Plateau: Implications for the origin of high-temperature geothermal resources
Hot dry rock is an almost inexhaustible source of geothermal energy. Since the first attempt to extract thermal energy from hot dry rock in America in the 1970s, successive studies have been conducted in many countries. Recently, high-temperature rock (exceeding 180 degrees C) was drilled in the Gonghe basin, northeastern Tibetan Plateau, marking a significant breakthrough in the exploration of hot dry rock resources in China. A proper understanding of the origin of the hot dry rock in the Gonghe basin is essential to the evaluation of the geothermal resource potential and to the establishment of an enhanced geothermal system in the basin. In the present research, we attempt to seek clues from the radiogenic heat production of the rocks. In all, 52 core samples collected from the main boreholes in the Gonghe basin were measured for the concentrations of radioisotopes. The heat production values were determined to be 1.21-2.02 mu W m(-3) for the sedimentary rocks, yielding an arithmetic mean of 1.67 +/- 0.29 mu W m(-3), and 1.17-5.81 mu W m(-3) for the basal granitic rocks, yielding a mean of 3.20 +/- 1.07 mu W m(-3). The results show that the radiogenic heat production of the granitic rocks is approximately that of global Mesozoic-Cenozoic granites, which is further corroborated by an extensive compilation of heat production data for granitic rocks in the immediate vicinity of the study area (average of 2.07 +/- 0.97 [LW m(-3), n = 136). Based on the heat production data sets combined with available geological and geophysical information, the crustal heat production contribution is determined. The results show that the heat contribution from the crust is about 48.3 mW m(-2), accounting for similar to 47.3% of terrestrial heat flow. Compared with the regional background heat flow, the high heat flow in the Gonghe basin may be attributed to an additional heat flow contribution (similar to 27 mW m(-2)) from a heat anomaly (probably related to partial melting) at shallow depth, which is evidenced by the low-resistivity anomalies in the magnetotelluric survey results. Thus, this study emphasizes that the anomalous heat flow and the hot dry rock geothermal resources in the Gonghe basin may be the combined effects of the radiogenic heat contribution from the thickened crust and the heat contribution from a local heat anomaly beneath the Gonghe basin. (C) 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords:Hot dry rock;Radiogenic heat production;Heat flow;Crustal heat contribution;Heat anomaly;Gonghe basin