Aspects of helium production and transport in the continents
This work examines the isotopic composition and abundance of helium in a number of different crustal environments with a view to understanding its production and transport in the crust. The work was largely carried out using existing instrumentation, but a dedicated interface was also built to allow computer control of a quadrupole mass spectrometer for rare gas abundance pattern determination. Conventional calculations of the radiogenic 3He/4He production ratio based on the assumption of a chemically homogeneous composition cannot adequately account for the 3He/4He ratio in waters from the Carnmenellis Granite of SW England. Alpha tracking and back-scattered electron microscopy show that the majority of the U and Th are concentrated in volumetrically insignificant accessory minerals. A new model has been devised, taking this heterogeneity into account, to explain the Carnmenellis data. Helium isotopic analysis of the granite itself revealed isotopic disequilibrium with the circulating waters. This may be related to differential release of 3He and 4He associated with different formation sites. A survey was made of the helium abundance and isotopic composition of groundwaters from the Pannonian Basin of Hungary in order to study the behaviour of mantle-derived fluids in an area of major recent crustal extension and volcanism. More than 80 samples were analysed covering most of the basin, and almost all contained a component of mantle-derived helium. Although 3He/4He ratio is not clearly correlated with the surface expression of volcanism, it may act as an indicator of intrusion at depth. The 3He flux through the Hungarian crust is ≈4 atoms.cm-2.s-2. If the mechanism of extraction is partial melting, then by analogy with melt production at mid-ocean ridges, addition of a 20-40 metre layer of basalt (for 5-10% partial melting) must be added to the Hungarian crust in a million years to support the present day 3He flux.