Dr. Esther Arning

Research Interests:

geochemical modeling

mineral-water-gas interaction


geochemistry, sedimentary geology, geobiology

biogeochemical processes and cycles

Methane, phosphate, barite


since 11/2008
Research scientist (Post Doc) at GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences, Potsdam.

09/2005 to 09/2008

Research scientist (PhD) at MARUM Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen. Title PhD thesis: “Phosphogenesis in coastal upwelling systems – bacterially-induced phosphorite formation”


Diploma in Geosciences, University of Bremen, Department of Geochemistry/Hydrogeology. Title Diploma thesis: “Einfluss oberflächennaher Wärmegewinnung auf geochemische Prozesse im Grundwasserleiter“

Bachelor of Science, Geosciences, University of Bremen, Department of Geochemistry/Hydrogeology. Title Bachelor thesis: “TBT-Gehalt im Sickerwasser von Hafenschlick – Einfluss der Methodik zur Eluatgewinnung, des pH-Wertes und der Heterogenität der Proben“


Modelling coupled diagenetic and hydrothermal processes in sediment-hosted massive sulphide deposits

Sediment-hosted massive sulphide (SHMS) deposits are our main resource of Pb and Zn on Earth. These deposits are located in sedimentary basins on ancient passive margins, and are typically hosted by carbonaceous mudstones. The most widely accepted model for ore formation involves the transport of dissolved Pb and Zn by hydrothermal fluids, which are focussed along growth faults. Precipitation of ore minerals is then thought to occur when hydrothermal fluids are exhaled at the seafloor, upon mixing with stagnant, euxinic (H2S-bearing) seawater. More recently, however, workers have shown that most deposits located in the North American Cordillera are formed beneath the seafloor in unconsolidated, partially consolidated or fully cemented organic-rich, biosiliceous muds (e.g. Kelly et al., 2004a1,b2; Magnall et al., 20163). Furthermore, there is evidence that diagenetic barite formation commonly pre-dates the hydrothermal event. This suggests that SHMS deposits form in sediments undergoing early diagenesis, and that the interaction between early diagenetic processes and hydrothermal fluids may be a key aspect of ore formation and the size of the deposits (e.g. Magnall et al., 20163). This has raised the following important questions that form the basis of this project:

1.  What factors are most important for the generation of an effective metal trap (i.e. H2S) during diagenesis? 

2.  What diagenetic reactions control the formation and dissolution of cement phases (e.g. silica, barite and carbonate), and following on, how does the permeability exploited by the hydrothermal fluids evolve during diagenesis?

This project represents a unique opportunity to combine GFZ’s newly acquired expertise on SHMS deposits (S. Gleeson, J. Magnall) and numerical modelling of hydrothermal fluid flow (P. Weis, A. Rodriquez) in Section 3.1 with the existing expertise on early diagenesis in Section 3.2, and specifically, organic-inorganic interactions of organic matter-rich mudstones (H.-M. Schulz) and numerical modelling of these diagenetic processes (E. Arning).

Biogenic Methane Potential (BioMeP), Phase II

Key questions for future exploration activities are:

  1. Which marine or non-marine sediments are most promising for biogenic methane formation, and where do they occur?
  2. How much biogenic methane is being generated currently, and how much was generated in the geological past?
  3. Which are/were the controlling factors for biogenic methane generation, and how much was intermediately stored as hydrate with a potential to survive as free gas?

The goal of BioMeP-II is to improve the modeling platform PEaCH4 (Potential of Early CH4). Its preliminary version was developed during the first phase of the BioMeP project.

However, the project is not limited to methane and the carbon cycle. It comprises the whole set of early diagenetic processes in marine sediments.

PHREEQC based modelling platform PEaCH4 v. 2.0

PEaCH4 v. 2.0 provides a modelling platform to predict, but also to retrace early diagenetic processes in marine sediments. The modelling tool is the PHREEQC computer code that is applied to calculate chemical equilibrium species distribution among aqueous solutions, minerals and gases. This is combined with one-dimensional diffusion-driven transport and the irreversible redox-conversion of metabolizable organic matter. PHREEQC is coupled to an excel© platform of PEaCH4 v. 2.0.

Cooperations and Partners

Prof. Wolfgang van Berk, Clausthal University of Technology



Dr. Karim Benzera, Julie Cosmidis, IPGP, France

Publications – peer reviewed international

Arning ET, Gaucher EC, van Berk W, Schulz H-M (2015) Hydrogeochemical models locating sulfate-methane transition zone in marine sediments overlying black shales: A new tool to locate biogenic methane? Marine and Petroleum Geology 59: 563-574. doi: 10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2014.10.004.

Krüger M, van Berk W, Arning ET, Jinménez N, Schovsbo NH, Straaten N, Schulz H-M (2014) The biogenic methane potential of European gas shale analogues: Results from incubation experiments and thermodynamic modelling. International Journal of Coal Geology 136: 59-74. doi:10.1016/j.coal.2014.09.012.

Cosmidis J, Benzerara K, Menguy N, Arning ET (2013) Microscopy evidence of bacterial microfossils in phosphorite crusts of the Peruvian shelf: implications for the phosphogenesis mechanism. Chemical Geology 359: 10-22. doi:10.1016/j.chemgeo.2013.09.009.

Arning ET, van Berk W, Schulz H-M (2013) Thermodynamic modeling of complex sediment-water-gas interactions during early diagenesis. Procedia Earth and Planetary Science 7: 27-30. doi: 10.1016/j.proeps.2013.03.090.

Arning ET, van Berk W, Vaz dos Santos Neto E, Naumann R, Schulz H-M (2013) Quantification of methane formation in Amazon Fan sediments (ODP Leg 155, Site 938) by means of hydrogeochemical modelling solid – aqueous solution – gas interactions. Journal of South American Earth Sciences 42: 205-215. doi:10.1016/j.jsames.2012.12.001.

Arning ET, van Berk W, Schulz H-M (2012) Quantitative geochemical modeling along a transect off Peru: Carbon cycling in time and space, and triggering factors for carbon loss and storage. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 26: 1-18. doi:10.1029/2011GB0074156.

Berndmeyer C, Birgel D, Brunner B, Wehrmann LM, Jöns N, Bach W, Arning ET, Föllmi KB, Peckmann J (2012) The influence of bacterial activity on phosphorite formation in the Miocene Monterey Formation, California. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 317-318: 171-181. doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2012.01.004.

Arning ET, Fu Y, van Berk W, Schulz H-M (2011) Organic carbon conversion as the control of complex, early diagenetic solid – aqueous solution – gas interactions: Case study ODP Leg 204, Site 1246 (Hydrate Ridge). Marine Chemistry 126: 120-131. doi:10.1016/j.marchem.2011.04.006

Hoffmann-Sell L, Birgel D, Arning ET, Föllmi KB, Peckmann J (2011) Archael lipids in Miocene dolomites (Monterey and Sisquoc Formations, California) - planktic versus benthic archaeal sources. Organic Geochemistry 42: 593-604. DOI: 10.1016/j.orggeochem.2011.04.008

Holmkvist L, Arning ET, Küster-Heins K, Vandieken V, Peckmann J, Zabel M, Jørgensen BB (2010) Phosphate geochemistry, mineralization processes, and Thioploca distribution in shelf sediments off central Chile. Marine Geology 277: 61-72. DOI: 10.1016/j.margeo.2010.08.011

Arning ET, Birgel D, Brunner B, Peckmann J (2009) Bacterial formation of phosphatic laminites off Peru. Geobiology 7: 1-13. DOI: 10.1111/j.1472-4669.2009.00197.x

Arning ET, Lückge A, Breuer C, Gussone N, Birgel D, Peckmann J (2009) Genesis of phosphorite crusts off Peru. Marine Geology 262: 68-81. DOI:10.1016/j.margeo.2009.03.006

Hogslund S, Revsbech NP, Kuenen JG, Jorgensen BB, Gallardo VA, van den Vossenberg J, Nielsen JL, Holmkvist L, Arning ET, Nielsen LP (2009) Physiology and behaviour of marine Thioploca. ISME Journal 3: 647-657. DOI: 10.1038/ismej.2009.17

Arning ET, Birgel D, Schulz-Vogt HN, Holmkvist L, Jørgensen BB, Larson A, Peckmann J (2008) Lipid Biomarker Patterns of Phosphogenic Sediments from Upwelling Regions. Geomicrobiology Journal 25: 69-82. DOI: 10.1080/01490450801934854

Selected oral and poster presentations

Arning ET, Schulz H-M, Wirth R, van Berk W, Gaucher EC “Authigenic barite formation in microenvironments - implications from optical studies and hydrogeochemical modelling” GeoBremen, Bremen, September 2017, oral presentation.

Arning ET, Schulz H-M, van Berk W “Thermodynamic modeling of complex sediment-water-gas interactions during early diagenesis” Water-Rock Interaction, Avignon, June 2013, oral presentation.

Arning ET, Schulz H-M, van Berk W “Biogenic methane potential of marine sediments: Application of chemical thermodynamics” DGMK/ÖGEW-Frühjahrstagung, Celle, April 2013, oral presentation.

Arning ET, van Berk W, Schulz H-M “Quantification and controlling factors of methane loss and storage within marine sediments along a transect off Peru” EGU General Assembly, Vienna, April 2011, oral presentation.

Arning ET, van Berk W, Schulz H-M “Modelling past and present phosphate cycling off Peru” EGU General Assembly, Vienna, April 2011, oral presentation.

Arning ET, Fu Y, van Berk W, Schulz H-M “Quantification of methane formation in Amazon Fan sediments by means of solid – aqueous solution – gas interaction hydrogeochemical modelling)” Gas in Marine Sediments (GIMS), Listvyanka (Russia), September 2010, oral presentation.

Arning ET, Birgel D, Brunner B, Lückge A, Schulz-Vogt HN, Peckmann J "Formation of phosphatic laminites driven by the activity of sulphate-reducing and sulphate-oxidizing bacteria revealed by a multi-proxy approach." IMOG, Bremen, September 2009, oral presentation.

Arning ET, Fu Y, van Berk W, Schulz H-M “Hydrogeochemical modelling with PHREEQC to retrace diagenetic pathways in marine sediments – A case study (ODP Leg 204, Site 1246 Hydrate Ridge)” IMOG, Bremen, September 2009, poster presentation.

Arning ET, Fu Y, van Berk W, Schulz H-M “Retracing diagenetic pathways in diffusion controlled marine sediments: hydrogeochemical modelling with PHREEQC.” Goldschmidt, Davos, June 2009, oral presentation.

Arning ET, Birgel D, Brunner B, Lückge A, Peckmann J "Phosphorite laminites off Peru - products of microbial activity." International Kalkowsky-Symposium, Göttingen, October 2008, oral presentation.

Arning ET, Birgel D, Lückge A, Gussone N, Peckmann J “Phosphorites from the upwelling region off Peru – the inferred role of bacterial activity in mineralization.” EGU General Assembly, Vienna, April 2008, oral presentation.

Arning ET, Birgel D, Schulz-Vogt HN, Jørgensen BB, Peckmann J “Phosphogenesis in recent upwelling areas: the importance of microbial communities indicated by lipid biomarkers.” Goldschmidt, Cologne, August 2007, poster presentation.

Esther Arning
Dr. Esther Arning