Plagioclase dissolution related to biodegradation of oil in Brent Group sandstones (Middle Jurassic) of Gullfaks Field, northern North Sea

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Abstract

Brent Group sandstones from the north side of the Gullfaks Oilfield contain mostly 5–8% albitic plagioclase, whereas plagioclase is almost absent in the same strata in the southern part of the field. Absence of plagioclase throughout the entire vertical extent of the Brent Group in the southern wells seems to rule out provenance as the principal explanation for differing plagioclase content, which is therefore interpreted as the result of diagenesis. Hypotheses for the nature of the inferred leaching event include epigenetic meteoric diagenesis and mesogenetic release of acid components from clay minerals or kerogen, but these explanations are unable to account for the observed spatial distribution of the plagioclase-bearing and plagioclase-free sandstone intervals. However, overall correspondence between the area lacking plagioclase and oil compositions having both anomalously high CO2 and organic geochemical indications of advanced biodegradation suggest a link between plagioclase dissolution and biodegradation of the present oil column. It is, therefore, proposed that acid components from biodegradation selectively reacted with albitic plagioclase to form kaolin, releasing sodium bicarbonate into the residual water. The plagioclase-free sandstones contain more kaolin than the plagioclase-bearing sandstones, as would be expected due to aluminium conservation. However, the wide and overlapping ranges of kaolin content in both groups suggest that most of the kaolin originated from processes other than biodegradation-driven plagioclase alteration, potentially including both epigenetic and mesogenetic dissolution, as well as deposition of detrital kaolin and kaolin precursors.

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