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Ion association in natural brines

January 1, 1969

Natural brines, both surface and subsurface, are highly associated aqueous solutions. Ion complexes in brines may be ion pairs in which the cation remains fully hydrated and the bond between the ions is essentially electrostatic, or coordination complexes in which one or more of the hydration water molecules are replaced by covalent bonds to the anion. Except for Cl, the major simple ions in natural brines form ion pairs; trace and minor metals in brines form mainly coordination complexes.

Limitations of the Debye-Hückel relations for activity coefficients and lack of data on definition and stability of all associated species in concentrated solutions tend to produce underestimates of the degree of ion association, except where the brines contain a very high proportion of Cl. Data and calculations on closed basin brines of highly varied composition have been coupled with electrode measurements of single-ion activities in an attempt to quantify the degree of ion association. Such data emphasize the role of magnesium complexes.

Trace metal contents of closed basin brines are related to complexes formed with major anions. Alkaline sulfo- or chlorocarbonate brines (western Great Basin) carry significant trace metal contents apparently as hydroxides or hydroxy polyions. Neutral high chloride brines (Bonneville Basin) are generally deficient in trace metals.

With a knowledge of the thermodynamic properties of a natural water, many possible reactions with other phases (solids, gases, other liquids) may be predicted. A knowledge of these reactions is particularly important in the study of natural brines which may be saturated with many solid phases (silicates, carbonates, sulfates, etc.), which may have a high pH and bring about dissolution of other phases (silica, amphoteric hydroxides, CO2, etc.), and which because of their high density may form relatively stable interfaces with dilute waters.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1969
Title Ion association in natural brines
DOI 10.1016/0009-2541(69)90039-4
Authors A.H. Truesdell, B.F. Jones
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Chemical Geology
Series Number
Index ID 70011622
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization