EGU24-11792, updated on 09 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Structural characterization of hydrothermal fluid pathways in orogenic belts: Insights from the GeoTex project, Rhône Valley, Switzerland

Timothy C. Schmid1, Marco Herwegh1, Alfons Berger1, Sandro Truttmann1, Larryn W. Diamond1, Christoph Wanner1, Daniela B. Van den Heuvel1, Herfried Madritsch2, and Tobias Diehl3
Timothy C. Schmid et al.
  • 1University of Bern, Institute of Geological Sciences, Bern, Switzerland (
  • 2Federal Office of Topography swisstopo, Wabern, Switzerland
  • 3Swiss Seismological Service (SED), ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland

Meteoric water may or may not infiltrate deeply into high-relief mountain ranges. Along its subsurface circulation path, the water heats up according to the background geothermal gradient and eventually emerges at lower elevation as thermal springs. Whether such topographically-driven circulation establishes or not depends on the host rock’s permeability and/or the hydraulic head. In terms of permeability, fault zones play an important role as they can provide preferential flow paths for fluids. This is particularly the case of active fault zones along which recurring slip counteracts clogging caused by mineral precipitation often found along non-active structures. Thus, the investigation of 4D fault and fracture geometries and their kinematics is a means to understand the locations and dynamics of geothermal systems in orogenic belts. Here, we present preliminary results from the ongoing GeoTex research project, which aims at better defining the geothermal potential of the Rhône Valley, an area of rugged topography in SW Switzerland. The Rhône Valley represents a geothermally active zone within the Alpine orogen, which is characterised by numerous thermal springs, regional-scale faults and enhanced seismic activity. It is therefore a promising setting to explore further for exploitation.

Based on structural data from fieldwork and quantitative remote sensing, we characterise fault geometries (i.e., spatial orientation, relationship of intersecting fault families as well as kinematics) in the vicinity of known thermal springs. Observable paleo-fluid pathways marked by veins and rock alteration are being considered as analogues for recent thermal water circulation. These circulation paths are linked to major Alpine structures in the underlying basement units, such as large-scale strike-slip faults or the axial planes of uplifting basement domes. Our results suggest spatial correlations between the locations of hydrothermal springs and the 3D structure of the host massifs. Specifically, basement–cover contacts exert geometric and lithologic control at some sites, whereas locally dilatant domains along strike-slip faults as well as intersections of fault families focus outflow at other sites. Through the above approach in combination with seismological data, we have derived conceptual models for fluid flow, which may help to predict the locations of blind active geothermal systems elsewhere in the Rhône Valley.

How to cite: Schmid, T. C., Herwegh, M., Berger, A., Truttmann, S., Diamond, L. W., Wanner, C., Van den Heuvel, D. B., Madritsch, H., and Diehl, T.: Structural characterization of hydrothermal fluid pathways in orogenic belts: Insights from the GeoTex project, Rhône Valley, Switzerland, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-11792,, 2024.