Application of numerical modelling to a case of compaction-driven dolomitization: a Jurassic palaeohigh in the Po Plain, Italy



Dolomitization of a carbonate platform can occur at different times and in different diagenetic environments, from synsedimentary to deep burial settings. Numerical simulations are valuable tools to test and select the model that, among different hypotheses compatible with field and geochemical data, best honour mass balance, kinetic and thermodynamic constraints. Moreover, the simulation can predict the distribution of the dolomitized bodies in the subsurface and evaluate porosity changes; valuable information for the oil industry. This study is the first attempt to reproduce and investigate the compaction dolomitization model. The diagenetic study of the Jurassic carbonate basin and palaeohigh system of the Po Plain indicates that the carbonates of the palaeohighs were dolomitized by basin compaction fluids. The main goal of the simulations is to evaluate the origin and evolution of the dolomitizing fluids and to provide insights regarding the distribution of the potential reservoir-dolomitized bodies in the Po Plain. The modelling process is subdivided into two steps: basin modelling and reactive transport modelling. The SEBE3 basin simulator (Eni proprietary) was used to create a three-dimensional model of the compacting system. The results include compaction fluid flow rate from the basin to the palaeohigh, compaction duration and a determination of the total amount of fluid introduced into the palaeohigh. These data are then used to perform reactive transport modelling with the TOUGHREACT code. Sensitivities on dolomite kinetic parameters suggest that dolomitization was an efficient process even at low temperatures, with differences mainly related to the dynamics of the process. Fluid composition is one of the main constraints, the sea water derived compaction fluid is proven to be efficient for dolomitization due to its relatively high Mg content. Simulations also confirmed that permeability is the most important factor influencing fluid flow and, consequently, the dolomite distribution in the formation. Permeable fractured zones have a strong influence, diverting the dolomitizing fluids from their normal path towards overlying or lateral zones. Moreover, the simulations showed that, after dolomite replacement is complete, the dolomitizing fluids can precipitate dolomite cement, causing over-dolomitization, with related localized plugging effects in the zone of influx. Mass balance calculations indicate that in the dolomitization compaction model, the amount of compaction water fluxed from the basin to the carbonate is the main constraint on dolomitization efficiency. This observation implies that the ratio between the volume of the basin undergoing compaction and the volume of the palaeohigh is a limiting factor on the final size of the dolomitized bodies. An isolated palaeohigh could be an ideal site for pervasive replacement dolomitization due to the large volume of compaction fluids available compared with the carbonate rock volume. In the case of large platforms, the more permeable margin lithofacies are the most likely sites for compaction model dolomitization. The combined use of a basin simulator and reactive transport modelling has proved to be a successful method to verify model reliability and it provides insights into the volumetric distribution of diagenetic products.