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Oman Ophiolite Drilling Project



Oman TravertineAn ICDP sponsored workshop is planned to develop a full proposal for drilling in the Samail ophiolite in the Sultanate of Oman. The Samail ophiolite is composed of igneous crust and upper mantle formed at a submarine spreading center, via processes very similar to those at mid-ocean ridges today. Drilling will provide key data on the processes of melt extraction from the mantle, igneous accretion of oceanic crust, and hydrothermal modification of that crust. Drilling will also investigate present day alteration processes, their relationship to the deep biosphere, and their potential for acceleration to achieve carbon capture and storage via in situ mineral carbonation.

Igneous accretion and fluid alteration of oceanic plates at spreading centers are the simplest chemical differentiation processes in the solid Earth. yielding a "Rosetta Stone" for interpreting processes in more complex tectonic settings. Because mantle peridotites are very far from equilibrium with the atmosphere and surface waters, exposure of mantle peridotites on the Earth's surface, during tectonic extension at ridges and via emplacement of ophiolites on land, yields a chemical potential gradient that is unmatched in magnitude and extent, driving mass transfer that continues off axis and during surficial weathering. Together, these processes create a fertile environment for the subsurface biosphere, and control mass transfer between the hydrosphere and the mantle over two thirds of the Earth's surface.

Understanding these processes is of increasing societal relevance. For example, ancient and ongoing mineral carbonation processes in the mafic and ultramafic rocks of the Oman ophiolite form a natural laboratory in which we can discover natural reaction pathways and experiment on accelerating these processes for carbon capture and storage. Overall, understanding mass transfer in crustal genesis and evolution provides a template for regulating a variety of environmental fluxes. Such studies build "human capital", preparing a new generation for a future in which efforts to offset negative human impacts will be increasingly important. Collaboration will involve an international palette of research scientists, and will provide a clear, positive role model for young people, in which science transcends national borders and offers an opportunity for constructive, direct action to address global problems. Finally, there is no geoscience topic with more potential for lasting, philosophical impact than understanding the scientific basis for the origin of life, and there is no geochemical process more conducive to abiotic hydrocarbon synthesis on Earth today than peridotite alteration on the seafloor and in ophiolites.

(Figure: Alkaline spring in travertine near the village of Falaij from the active peridotite carbonation system in Oman. See Kelemen & Matter (2008) and Kelemen et al. (2011) for more information)



Asia, Oman



22.846° N, 58.056° E (Please scroll down to end of page for more information.)


Project Start and End
  • workshop: Palisades NY, 13-17 September 2012


Principal Investigators
  • Peter B. Kelemen, Columbia University, The Earth Institute, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory
  • Ali Salim Al Rajhi, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Geological Survey of Oman
  • Shoji Arai, Kanazawa University, Department of Earth Sciences
  • Donna K. Blackman, University of California at San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Geological Data Center
  • Georges Ceuleneer, Université Paul Sabatier, Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées, Géosciences Environnement Toulouse - GET - UMR 5563
  • Laurence A. Coogan, University of Victoria, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences
  • Marguerite Godard, Université de Montpellier II, Laboratoire de Tectonophysique
  • Steven L. Goldstein, Columbia University, The Earth Institute, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory
  • Philippe Gouze, Université de Montpellier II, Géosciences Montpellier
  • Albrecht Werner Hofmann, Max-Planck-Institute Mainz for Chemistry, Department of Biogeochemistry
  • Bjorn Jamtveit, University of Oslo, Physics of Geological Processes
  • Charles H. Langmuir, Harvard University, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • Craig E. Manning, University of California at Los Angeles, Department of Earth and Space Sciences, Geodynamics
  • Jürg Michael Matter, University of Southampton, National Oceanography Centre, National Oceanography Centre, Ocean and Earth Science
  • Katsuyoshi Michibayashi, Shizuoka University, Graduate School of Science and Technology, Department of Environment and Energy Systems
  • Barbara Sherwood Lollar, University of Toronto, Department of Earth Sciences
  • Everett Shock, Arizona State University, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • Eric L. Sonnenthal, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Earth Sciences Division
  • Damon A.H. Teagle, University of Southampton, National Oceanography Centre, National Oceanography Centre, Ocean and Earth Science
  • Wenlu Zhu, University of Maryland, Department of Geology



Asia, Carbon Capture, Crust, Hydrothermal Alteration, ICDP-2011/07, Mantle, OMAN


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