Formation of fluidization pipes during liquefaction: examples from the Uratanna Formation (Lower Cambrian), South Australia



ABSTRACT Usually well preserved fluidization pillars and sand filled fluidization pipes occur within submarine channel sands of the basal Uratanna Formation (Lower Cambrian) in the Adelaide Geosyncline of South Australia. The morphology of these structures reflects complex lateral and vertical movement of fluids during liquefaction and dewatering. Fluidization pipes acted as conduits for highly concentrated, upward directed fluid flow. The formation and maintenance of these pipes was dependent upon the development of a pipe wall composed of clay plugged fine sand. Formed during initial fluidization, this lining acted as a permeability barrier, confining and concentrating fluidized flow within the pipe. Each of the pipes is surrounded by a cylindrical fluidization halo in which leakage through the pipe lining produced partial fluidization of the surrounding sediment. Fine scale structures within these haloes indicate that fluids flowed radially and upward out of the fluidization pipes at an acute angle. These fluids merged with and influenced the orientation and size of adjacent fluidization pillars. The fluidization pipes of the Uratanna Formation may represent unusual preservation of the unstable fluid flow conditions that occur during incipient fluidization of sand beds.