Formation of Mg-carbonates and Mg-hydroxides via calcite replacement controlled by fluid pressure

Gan Duan, Joël Brugger, Barbara Etschmann, Rahul Ram, Andrew Frierdich, Steven Micklethwaite

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Reactive fluid flow can control the mineralogical, mechanical and chemical evolution of the Earth’s crust. When rocks are exposed to differential stresses (i.e., vertical stress ≠ horizontal stress ≠ pore-fluid pressure (Pf)) during reactive fluid flow, effective pressure is usually assumed to control the overall reaction process. Here, we show that fluid pressure can play an important role in mineral replacement reactions. We conducted experiments in which calcite (CaCO3) grains (fraction size 53–150 µm) reacted with a Mg-rich solution at ~ 200 °C both in a closed system and under reactive fluid flow conditions with different fluid flow rates and fluid pore pressures, but with similar confining pressure (σn = 10 or 20 MPa) and effective pressure (Pe). Under closed system, vapor-saturated pressures, the magnesite formed with large pores between the magnesite and the calcite. In the open system flow-through experiments, however, brucite (Mg(OH)2) or magnesite (MgCO3) formed, depending on pore-fluid pressure. The main reaction product was brucite at low pore-fluid pressure (0.2 MPa), but magnesite at higher pore-fluid pressures (≥ 1 MPa). Calcite dissolution and precipitation of the product mineral increased concomitantly with flow rate, but the flow rate did not affect the nature of the products. The permeability of the reacting rock was related to the reaction pathway, i.e. the nature of the products. Magnesite replaced the pristine calcite in a pseudomorphic manner, and mantled the pristine calcite with 10–100 µm wide pores. In contrast, tabular and/or platy brucite blocked the porosity and resulted in a decrease in permeability. Our results show that the pore-fluid pressure can be a significant parameter controlling the reaction products and reaction processes in volatile-rich (e.g., CO2, HCl, H2S and SO2) systems at conditions close to phase separation; these conditions occur for example in epithermal and porphyry hydrothermal systems, and in carbonate-replacement and some metamorphic environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Number of pages14
JournalContributions to Mineralogy and Petrology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Brucite
  • Experiment
  • Flow-through
  • Fluid pore pressure
  • Fluid-driven reaction
  • Magnesite
  • Mineral replacement reactions

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