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Estimates of Heat Flow and Geothermal Gradients in the Gippsland Basin


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Author Cull J P and Beardsmore G R


Geothermal gradients in the Gippsland Basin commonly exceed 35° C/km. Consequently models of thermal maturation may indicate exploration targets with an anomalous age/depth distribution. However regional geothermal models are constrained primarily by observations of surface heat flow. High geothermal gradients may simply reflect the presence of low conductivity coal beds within the basin. Heat flow data are not readily available for the Gippsland Basin. Normally special purpose drill holes are required to provide direct determinations of surface heat flow. These provide core samples for thermal conductivity and allow measurements of a stable geothermal gradient at least one year after drilling. Different indirect procedures are now required to provide estimates for the Gippsland Basin. Bottom hole temperatures can be used with suitable corrections to provide an indication of the regional geothermal gradient. However the corresponding thermal conductivities are more difficult to determine. Geophysical logs can be used to detect the major lithologies but detailed statistical analysis is required for numerical estimates. Complex mixing models are now suggested for geothermal surveys linking physical properties to variations in the mineralogy of each well. Allowing for low conductivity coal measures the data in the Gippsland Basin suggest values for heat flow consistent with regional trends in Australia. Interpretation is complicated by overprinting of transient thermal events with different time scales. Apart from the tectonics of basin evolution geothermal signatures may be complicated by regional ground water migration, the ‘hot spot’ trace associated with southward younging of Cainozoic volcanism, diagenesis, and basin refraction.