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Use of mineral/solution equilibrium calculations to assess the potential for carnotite precipitation from groundwater in the Texas Panhandle, USA

October 1, 2016

This study investigated the potential for the uranium mineral carnotite (K2(UO2)2(VO4)2·3H2O) to precipitate from evaporating groundwater in the Texas Panhandle region of the United States. The evolution of groundwater chemistry during evaporation was modeled with the USGS geochemical code PHREEQC using water-quality data from 100 groundwater wells downloaded from the USGS National Water Information System (NWIS) database. While most modeled groundwater compositions precipitated calcite upon evaporation, not all groundwater became saturated with respect to carnotite with the system open to CO2. Thus, the formation of calcite is not a necessary condition for carnotite to form. Rather, the determining factor in achieving carnotite saturation was the evolution of groundwater chemistry during evaporation following calcite precipitation. Modeling in this study showed that if the initial major-ion groundwater composition was dominated by calcium-magnesium-sulfate (>70 precent Ca + Mg and >50 percent SO4 + Cl) or calcium-magnesium-bicarbonate (>70 percent Ca + Mg and <70 percent HCO3 + CO3) and following the precipitation of calcite, the concentration of calcium was greater than the carbonate alkalinity (2mCa+2 > mHCO3 + 2mCO3−2) carnotite saturation was achieved. If, however, the initial major-ion groundwater composition is sodium-bicarbonate (varying amounts of Na, 40–100 percent Na), calcium-sodium-sulfate, or calcium-magnesium-bicarbonate composition (>70 percent HCO3 + CO3) and following the precipitation of calcite, the concentration of calcium was less than the carbonate alkalinity (2mCa+2 < mHCO3- + 2mCO3−2) carnotite saturation was not achieved. In systems open to CO2, carnotite saturation occurred in most samples in evaporation amounts ranging from 95 percent to 99 percent with the partial pressure of CO2 ranging from 10−3.5 to 10−2.5 atm. Carnotite saturation occurred in a few samples in evaporation amounts ranging from 98 percent to 99 percent with the partial pressure of CO2 equal to 10−2.0 atm. Carnotite saturation did not occur in any groundwater with the system closed to CO2.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2016
Title Use of mineral/solution equilibrium calculations to assess the potential for carnotite precipitation from groundwater in the Texas Panhandle, USA
DOI 10.1016/j.apgeochem.2016.08.004
Authors Anthony J. Ranalli, Douglas B. Yager
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Applied Geochemistry
Series Number
Index ID 70181012
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center