Origin and geochemical reaction paths of sabkha brines: Sabkha Jayb Uwayyid, eastern Saudi Arabia

Research paper by Nasser A. Alsaaran

Indexed on: 27 Jun '08Published on: 27 Jun '08Published in: Arabian Journal of Geosciences


Sabkhas are ubiquitous geomorphic features in eastern Saudi Arabia. Seven brine samples were taken from Sabkha Jayb Uwayyid in eastern Saudi Arabia. Brine chemistry, saturation state with respect to carbonate and evaporate minerals, and evaporation-driven geochemical reaction paths were investigated to delineate the origin of brines and the evolution of both brine chemistry and sabkha mineralogy. The average total dissolved solids in the sabkha brines is 243 g/l. The order of cation dominance is Na+   >>  Mg2+ >>  Ca2+>K+, while anion dominance is Cl− >> SO42− >> HCO3−. Based on the chemical divide principle and observed ion ratios, it was concluded that sabkha brines have evolved from deep groundwater rather than from direct rainfall, runoff from the surroundings, or inflow of shallow groundwater. Aqueous speciation simulations show that: (1) all seven brines are supersaturated with respect to calcite, dolomite, and magnesite and undersaturated with respect to halite; (2) three brines are undersaturated with respect to both gypsum and anhydrite, while three brines are supersaturated with respect to both minerals; (3) anhydrite is a more stable solid phase than gypsum in four brines. Evaporation factors required to bring the brines to the halite phase boundary ranged from 1.016 to 4.53. All reaction paths to the halite phase boundary follow the neutral path as CO2 is degassed and dolomite precipitates from the brines. On average, a sabkha brine containing 1 kg of H2O precipitates 7.6 g of minerals along the reaction path to the halite phase boundary, of which 52% is anhydrite, 35.3% is gypsum, and 12.7% is dolomite. Bicarbonate is the limiting factor of dolomite precipitation, and sulfate is the limiting factor of gypsum and anhydrite precipitation from sabkha brines.