Interrelationships between carbonate diagenesis and fracture development : example from Monterrey Salient, Mexico and implications for hydrocarbon reservoir characterization
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Many low matrix-porosity hydrocarbon reservoirs are productive because permeability is controlled by natural fractures. The understanding of basic fracture properties is critical in reducing geological risk and therefore reducing well costs and increasing well recovery. Unfortunately, neither geophysics nor borehole methods are, so far, accurate in the acquisition of key fracture attributes, such as density, porosity, spacing and conductivity. This study proposes a new protocol to predict key fracture characteristics of subsurface carbonate rocks and describes how using a relatively low-cost but rock-based method it is possible to obtain accurate geological information from rock samples to predict fracture attributes in nearby but unsampled areas. This methodology is based on the integration of observations of diagenetic fabrics and fracture analyses of carbonate rocks, using outcrops from the Lower Cretaceous Cupido Formation in the Monterrey Salient of the Sierra Madre Oriental, northeastern Mexico. Field observations and petrographic studies of crosscutting relations and fracture-fill mineralogy and texture distinguish six principal coupled fracturing-cementation events. Two fracture events named F1 and F2 are characterized by synkinematic calcite cement that predates D2 regional dolomitization. A third fracture event (F3) is characterized by synkinematic dolomite fill, contemporaneous with D2 dolomitization of host strata. The fourth event (F4) is characterized by synkinematic D3 baroque dolomite; this event postdates D2. The fifth fracture event (F5) is characterized by C3 synkinematic calcite, and postdates D3 dolomite. Finally, flexural slip faulting (F6) is characterized by C3t calcite, and postdates D3 dolomite. Carbon and oxygen stable isotopes were used to validate the paragenetic sequences proposed for the Cupido Formation rocks. The dolomite isotopic signatures are consistent with increasing precipitation temperatures for the various fracture cements, as is expected if fractures grew during progressive burial conditions. Three main groups of calcite cement can be differentiated isotopically. Late calcite cement may have precipitated from cool waters under shallow burial conditions, possibly during exhumation of the SMO. The development of the Structural Diagenetic Petrographic Study protocol, and its integration with geological, geophysical and engineering data, can be applied to oil fields in fractured carbonates such as those located in Mexico, to validate its applicability.