Low-Mg calcite marine cement in Cretaceous turbidites: origin, spatial distribution and relationship to seawater chemistry



Lower Cretaceous (Hauterivian) bioclastic sandstone turbidites in the Scapa Member (North Sea Basin) were extensively cemented by low-Mg calcite spars, initially as rim cements and subsequently as concretions. Five petrographically distinct cement stages form a consistent paragenetic sequence across the Scapa Field. The dominant and pervasive second cement stage accounts for the majority of concretions, and is the focus of this study. Stable-isotope characterization of the cement is hampered by the presence of calcitic bioclasts and of later cements in sponge spicule moulds throughout the concretions. Nevertheless, trends from whole-rock data, augmented by cement separates from synlithification fractures, indicate an early calcite δ18O value of+0·5 to -1·5‰ PDB. As such, the calcite probably precipitated from marine pore fluids shortly after turbidite deposition. Carbon isotopes (δ13C=0 to -2‰ PDB) and petrographic data indicate that calcite formed as a consequence of bioclastic aragonite dissolution. Textural integrity of calcitic nannoplankton in the sandstones demonstrates that pore fluids remained at or above calcite saturation, as expected for a mineral-controlled transformation.

Electron probe microanalyses demonstrate that early calcite cement contains <2 mol% MgCO3, despite its marine parentage. Production of this cement is ascribed to a combination of an elevated aragonite saturation depth and a lowered marine Mg2+/Ca2+ ratio in early Cretaceous ‘calcite seas’, relative to modern oceans. Scapa cement compositions concur with published models in suggesting that Hauterivian ocean water had a Mg2+/Ca2+ ratio of ≤1. This is also supported by consideration of the spatial distribution of early calcite cement in terms of concretion growth kinetics. In contrast to the dominant early cement, late-stage ferroan, 18O-depleted calcites were sourced outwith the Scapa Member and precipitated after 1–2 km of burial.

Our results emphasize that bioclast dissolution and low-Mg calcite cementation in sandstone reservoirs should not automatically be regarded as evidence for uplift and meteoric diagenesis.