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Shale depositional processes: Example from the Paleozoic Barnett Shale, Fort Worth Basin, Texas, USA

Mohamed Abouelresh
  • Institute of Reservoir Characterization and Conoco-Phillips School of Geology and Geophysics, University of Oklahoma, Norman, USA
  • Faculty of Petroleum and Mining Engineering, Suez Canal University, Suez, Egypt
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/ Roger Slatt
  • Institute of Reservoir Characterization and Conoco-Phillips School of Geology and Geophysics, University of Oklahoma, Norman, USA
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Published Online: 2011-12-14 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/s13533-011-0037-z

Abstract

A long held geologic paradigm is that mudrocks and shales are basically the product of ‘hemipelagic rain’ of silt- and/or clay-sized, detrital, biogenic and particulate organic particles onto the ocean floor over long intervals of time. However, recently published experimental and field-based studies have revealed a plethora of micro-sedimentary features that indicate these common fine-grained rocks also could have been transported and/or reworked by unidirectional currents. In this paper, we add to this growing body of knowledge by describing such features from the Paleozoic Barnett Shale in the Fort Worth Basin, Texas, U.S.A. which suggests transport and deposition was from hyperpycnal, turbidity, storm and/or contour currents, in addition to hemipelagic rain. On the basis of a variety of sedimentary textures and structures, six main sedimentary facies have been defined from four 0.3 meter intervals in a 68m (223 ft) long Barnett Shale core: massive mudstone, rhythmic mudstone, ripple and low-angle laminated mudstone, graded mudstone, clay-rich facies, and spicule-rich facies. Current-induced features of these facies include mm- to cmscale cross- and parallel-laminations, scour surfaces, clastic/biogenic particle alignment, and normal- and inverse-size grading. A spectrum of vertical facies transitions and bed types indicate deposition from waxing-waning flows rather than from steady ‘rain’ of particles to the sea floor. Detrital sponge spicule-rich facies suggests transport to the marine environment as hypopycnal or hyperpycnal flows and reversal in buoyancy by transformation from concentrated to dilute flows; alternatively the spicules could have originated by submarine slumping in front of contemporaneous shallow marine sponge reefs, and then transported basinward as turbidity current flows. The occurrence of dispersed biogenic/organic remains and inversely size graded mudstones also support a hyperpycnal and/or turbidity flow origin for a significant part of the strata. These processes and facies reported in this paper are probably present in other organic-rich shales.

Keywords: Shale; Barnett; rhythmic; hyperpycnal; primary sedimentary micro-structures

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About the article

Published Online: 2011-12-14

Published in Print: 2011-12-01


Citation Information: Open Geosciences, Volume 3, Issue 4, Pages 398–409, ISSN (Online) 2391-5447, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/s13533-011-0037-z.

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© 2011 Versita Warsaw. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. BY-NC-ND 3.0

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