Structural controls on the Geochemistry and output of the Wells in the Olkaria Geothermal Field of the Kenyan Rift Valley

Wamalwa RN, Nyamai CM, Ambusso WJ, Mulwa JK, WASWA AARONK. "Structural controls on the Geochemistry and output of the Wells in the Olkaria Geothermal Field of the Kenyan Rift Valley." International Journal of Geoscience. 2016;7:1299-1309.


The Olkaria geothermal field is located in the Kenya Rift valley, about 120 km from Nairobi. Geothermal activity is widespread in this rift with 14 major geothermal prospects being identified. Structures in the Greater Olkaria volcanic complex in- clude: the ring structure, the Ol’Njorowa gorge, the ENE-WSW Olkaria fault and N-S, NNE-SSW, NW-SE and WNW-ESE trending faults. The faults are more prom- inent in the East, Northeast and West Olkaria fields but are scarce in the Olkaria Domes area, possibly due to the thick pyroclastics cover. The NW-SE and WNW- ESE faults are thought to be the oldest and are associated with the development of the rift. The most prominent of these faults is the Gorge Farm fault, which bounds the geothermal fields in the northeastern part and extends to the Olkaria Domes area. The most recent structures are the N-S and the NNE-SSW faults. The geoche- mistry and output of the wells cut by these faults have a distinct characteristic that is the N-S, NW-SE and WNW-ESE faults are characterized by wells that have high Cl contents, temperatures and are good producers whereas the NE-SW faults, the Ring Structure and the Ol’Njorowa gorge appear to carry cool dilute waters with less chlo- ride concentration and thus low performing wells. Though the impacts of these faults are apparent, there exists a gap in knowledge on how wide is the impact of these faults on the chemistry and performance of the wells. This paper therefore seeks to bridge this gap by analysis of the chemical trends of both old wells and newly drilled ones to evaluate the impacts of individual faults and then using buffering technique of ArcGis estimate how far and wide the influence of the faults is. The data was ob- tained after the sampling and analysis of discharge fluids of wells located on six pro- files along the structures cutting through the field. Steam samples were collected with a stainless steel Webre separator connected between the wellhead and an atmospher- ic silencer on the discharging wells whereas the analysis was done in house in the KenGen geochemistry laboratory. The results indicates that Olkaria field has three categories of faults that control fluid flow that is the NW-SE trending faults that bring in high temperature and Cl rich waters, and the NE-SW trending Olkaria frac- ture tend to carry cool temperature waters that have led to decline in enthalpies of the wells it cuts through. The faults within the Ol Njorowa gorge act to carry cool, less mineralized water. Though initially, these effects were thought to be in shallow depths, an indication in OW-901 which is a deeper at 2200 m compared to 1600 m of OW-23 well that proves otherwise. This is, however, to be proved later as much deeper wells have been sited.

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