Thermal and Diagenetic Evolution of Carboniferous Sandstones, Central Appalachian Basin

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Virginia Tech

The thermal and diagenetic evolution of Carboniferous sandstones in the central Appalachian basin has been resolved using various techniques. Paleothermometers including vitrinite reflectance and fluid inclusions indicate that burial of Lower and Upper Pennsylvanian strata of the Appalachian Plateau in West Virginia exceeded 4.4 km during the late Permian and occurred at a rate of ~100 m/m.y. Exhumation rates of ~10-30 m/m.y. from maximum burial to present depth were constrained using published apatite fission track and radiogenic helium ages.

Quartz, lithic and feldspar-rich sandstones from different stratigraphic intervals and locations were sampled from core (95 %) and outcrop (5%) to qualitatively and quantitatively evaluate sandstone diagenesis. A compositional multivariate data set compiled from point counts served as the basis for quantitative analysis of controls on sandstone diagenesis such as framework grain composition, paleoclimate and depositional environment. A priori groups (independent variables) corresponding to the controls were compared using digenetic products (dependent variables). Major conclusions of the analysis are, first, minerals that formed early appear to have been influenced by stratigraphic position. The distribution of siderite and iron-oxide/oxyhydroxide may reflect the second order paleoclimatic signature recognized throughout the

Carboniferous, where siderite formed during everwet periods and iron-oxide/oxyhydroxide during semi-arid conditions, reflecting differences in redox. Second, framework grain composition controlled the distribution of diagenetic alterations and quartz cementation in the burial environment. Lithic arenites are deficient in authigenic quartz, yet have undergone various degrees of illitization. The quartz deficiency is attributed to compaction-related loss of primary porosity relatively early, which inhibited flow of silica-bearing fluids. Finally, no correlation can be demonstrated between depositional environment and diagenesis.

Anomalously high fluid inclusion homogenization temperatures (> 215 °C) from Upper Pennsylvanian sandstones adjacent to the Alleghany Thrust Front indicate that tectonic setting played an important role in quartz authigenesis. The discrepancy between the fluid inclusion and vitrinite reflectance data imply that warm silica-bearing fluids, likely sourced from low-grade metamorphic reactions, were injected into Pennsylvanian sandstone aquifers during thrust loading associated with the Alleghanian orogeny.

diagenesis, paleothermometry, Appalachian basin, sandstone