Petrology and burial diagenesis of Plio-Pleistocene sediments, northern Gulf of Mexico




Milliken, K. L.

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Plio-Pleistocene sediments and rocks beneath the Louisiana and adjacent Texas shelves are the youngest of several thick packages of terrigenous sediment which prograded into the Gulf of Mexico during the Cenozoic. Comparison of diagenesis in these young sediments (more than 300 samples from 45 wells on the Louisiana-Texas shelf) to diagenesis of older Cenozoic rocks at similar burial depths elsewhere along the Gulf margin confirms that diagenesis is not strictly analogous among the various Cenozoic units. There has been an evolution of diagenesis during filling of the Gulf of Mexico. Differences in diagenesis cannot be attributed to differences in bulk mineralogy of the sands because PIio-Pleistocene sands are lithic arkoses and feldspathic litharenites with essentially the same QFR proportions as observed in subsurface Eocene and Oligocene sandstones along the Texas coast. Unaltered plagioclase is slightly more calcic (average An 24) than unaltered plagioclase in the older rocks. Burial diagenesis in Plio-Pleistocene sediments has involved essentially the same processes as observed in the older rocks, but overall, diagenesis has advanced to a lesser degree at any given depth. Cementation by quartz and carbonate, dissolution of potassium-feldspar and heavy minerals, albitization of plagioclase, and the transformation of smectite to illite have occurred in Plio-Pleistocene sediments, but cements and altered grains are not volumetrically significant shallower than 4 to 4.5 km. The temperature at which reaction of detrital constituents begins (approximately 90° C) is similar to that observed elsewhere in the Gulf, but the zone of reaction is spread over a greater depth range. The similar temperatures observed for the advent of detrital reactions across the Gulf basin suggest that these processes are more highly dependent upon temperature than upon time and that differences observed among the various units may be attributed, at least in part, to variations in the geothermal gradient. The degree of detrital grain alteration observed in these young sediments shows that significant loss of provenance information occurs quite early in the burial history. Alteration in the deep subsurface is very effective in modifying the primary detrital assemblage.