An understanding of the nature and scales of diagenetic variability within organic-rich mudstones is critical to the accurate assessment of shale-gas reservoir properties, as well as for elucidating chemical evolution pathways within mudstones. Here we integrate field observations with thin section descriptions (optical and electron optical techniques) and mineralogical data for the Blackhawk Member time-equivalent Mancos Shale in Book Cliffs, Utah, to determine the impacts of early and burial diagenesis on this mudstone succession.
The detrital assemblage in the Mancos Shale comprises quartz-silt, feldspar, clay minerals, dolomite and organic matter (TOC of 1 to 2.5%). Biogenic silica is negligible. Field mapping reveals laterally continuous (km scale), ferroan dolomite cemented units up to 0.3 m thick, are present. These cemented units cap both coarsening-upward units (1 to 3 m thick), and stacked successions of coarsening-upward units (5 to 15 m thick). These upward-coarsening sediment packages, capped by dolomite cemented strata, correlate to bedsets and parasequences in updip settings. Pervasive cementation in these dolomite-cemented units is likely to have occurred prior to compaction as a result of bacterially mediated respiratory processes. Cementation at these levels is particularly evident because cement precipitation occurred during breaks in sediment accumulation below marine flooding surfaces. The abundance of dolomite cements highlights the importance of macroscopic-scale diagenetic carbonate mobility in these mudstones.
In addition to carbonate-cements, diagenetic alteration and precipitation of quartz and alumina-silicate minerals are also important in these mudstones. Kaolinite is present both in uncompacted test of organisms and as vein fills in septarian concretions. Kaolinite precipitation is interpreted to have occurred prior to significant compaction and indicates that both silicon and aluminium were mobile during early diagenesis. We interpret the abundance of early diagenetic kaolinite cement to be the result of Al-mobilization by organic acids generated during organic matter oxidation reactions, with the Al sourced from poorly crystalline detrital aluminium oxides and clay minerals. There is also indirect evidence for burial diagenetic kaolinitization of feldspar grains. Quartz cement takes the form of quartz overgrowths and microcrystalline quartz crystals. Textures and CL spectra for the quartz microcrystalline cement suggests that recrystallization of biogenic silica (opal-A) was likely to have been an important source for quartz cements, although smectite-to-illite transformation may have contributed some. These mineral phases highlight that microscopic-scale diagenetic mobility of silica is important, even within mudstones lacking obvious sources of biogenic silica and is likely to be an important processes in a wide range of mudstones.