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Multistage dolomitization and distribution of dolomitized bodies in Early Jurassic carbonate platforms (Southern Alps, Italy)



The Early Jurassic dolomitized carbonates are a hydrocarbon exploration target in Northern Italy. Of these carbonates, the Liassic Albenza Formation platform and the overlying Sedrina Formation shelf were studied to define a pervasive dolomitization model and to shed light on dolomite distribution in the sub-surface. Field work, as well as analyses of well cores, stable isotopes, trace elements and fluid inclusions, was carried out on the outcropping thrust belt and sub-surface deformed foreland of the Southern Alps. Petrographic analyses showed a first, pervasive, replacement dolomitization phase (D1) followed by volumetrically less important dolomite cement precipitation phases (D2, D3 and D4). The δ18O values fall between −8·2‰ and 0·1‰ Vienna-Pee Dee Belemnite with the more depleted samples belonging to dolomite cement-rich dolostones; the δ13C ranges from 2·6‰ to 3·7‰ Vienna-Pee Dee Belemnite. Analysis of trace elements showed different Fe and Mn contents in the sub-surface and outcropping dolostones, and a higher Fe in the younger dolomite cements. An increase in the precipitation temperature (up to 130 °C from fluid inclusion data) and a decrease in diagenetic fluid salinity (from sea water to brackish) are observed from the first pervasive replacement dolomite to the dolomite cement phases. Field observations indicate that, in the Albenza Formation, dolomitization was limited to palaeohighs or faulted platform margins in the Early Jurassic carbonates. The pervasive replacement phase is interpreted based on a ‘compaction model’; the formation fluids expelled from compacting basinal carbonates could have funnelled along faults into permeable palaeohighs. The high homogenization temperature of the dolomite cements and decreased salinities indicate precipitation at great depth with an influx of meteoric water. These data, along with the thermal history, suggest that the dolomite cements precipitated according to the ‘tectonic squeegee’ dolomitization model. The dolomite precipitation temperature was set against the thermal history of the carbonate platform to interpret the timing of dolomite precipitation. The dolomite precipitation temperatures (90 to 100 °C) were reached in the studied formations first in the thrust fold belt (Early Tertiary, 60 Ma), and then in the foreland succession during the Late Tertiary (10 Ma). This observation suggests that the dolomite precipitation fronts moved southwards over time, recording a ‘diagenetic wave’ linked to the migration of the orogenic system. Observations suggest that the porosity increased during the first phase of replacement dolomitization while the dolomite cementation phases partially occluded the pores. The distribution of porous dolomitized bodies is therefore linked to the ‘compaction dolomitization’ model.