Isotopic constraints on growth conditions of multiphase calcite–pyrite–barite concretions in Carboniferous mudstones



Carbonate concretions in the Lower Carboniferous Caton Shale Formation contain diagenetic pyrite, calcite and barite in the concretion matrix or in different generations of septarian fissures. Pyrite was formed by sulphate reduction throughout the sediment before concretionary growth, then continued to form mainly in the concretion centres. The septarian calcites show a continuous isotopic trend from δ13C=−28·7‰ PDB and δ18O=−1·6‰ PDB through to δ13C=−6·9‰ PDB and δ18O=−14·6‰ PDB. This trend arises from (1) a carbonate source initially from sulphate reduction, to which was added increasing contributions of methanogenic carbonate; and (2) burial/temperature effects or the addition of isotopically light oxygen from meteoric water. The concretionary matrix carbonates must have at least partially predated the earliest septarian cements, and thus used the same carbonate sources. Consequently, their isotopic composition (δ13C=−12·0 to −10·1‰ PDB and δ18O=−5·7 to −5·6‰ PDB) can only result from mixing a carbonate cement derived from sulphate reduction with cements containing increasing proportions of carbonate from methanogenesis and, directly or indirectly, also from skeletal carbonate. Concretionary growth was therefore pervasive, with cements being added progressively throughout the concretion body during growth. The concretions contain barite in the concretion matrix and in septarian fissures. Barite in the earlier matrix phase has an isotopic composition (δ34S=+24·8‰ CDT and δ18O=+16·4‰ SMOW), indicating formation from near-surface, sulphate-depleted porewaters. Barites in the later septarian phase have unusual isotopic compositions (δ34S=+6 to +11‰ CDT and δ18O=+8 to +11‰ SMOW), which require the late addition of isotopically light sulphate to the porewaters, either from anoxic sulphide oxidation (using ferric iron) or from sulphate dissolved in meteoric water. Carbon isotope and biomarker data indicate that oil trapped within septarian fissures was derived from the maturation of kerogen in the enclosing sediments.