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Burial dolomitization driven by modified seawater and basal aquifer-sourced brines: Insights from the Middle and Upper Devonian of the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin

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aquifers, basin fluids, carbonates, dolomitization, faults, seawater

Abstract (summary)

Dolomitization in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin has been extensively researched, producing vast geochemical datasets. This provides a unique opportunity to assess the regional sources and flux of dolomitizing fluids on a larger scale than previous studies. A meta-analysis was conducted on stable isotope, strontium isotope (87Sr/86Sr), fluid inclusion and lithium-rich formation water data published over 30 years, with new petrographic, X-ray diffraction, stable isotope and rare-earth element (REE+Y) data. The Middle to Upper Devonian Swan Hills Formation, Leduc Formation and Wabamun Group contain replacement dolomite (RD) cross-cut by stylolites, suggesting replacement dolomitization occurred during shallow burial. Stable isotope, REE+Y and 87Sr/86Sr data indicate RD formed from Devonian seawater, then recrystallized during burial. Apart from the Wabamun Group of the Peace River Arch (PRA), saddle dolomite cement (SDC) is more δ18O(PDB) depleted than RD, and cross-cuts stylolites, suggesting precipitation during deep burial. SDC 87Sr/86Sr data indicate contributions from 87Sr-rich basinal brines in the West Shale Basin (WSB) and PRA, and authigenic quartz/albite suggests basinal brines interacted with underlying clastic aquifers before ascending faults into carbonate strata. The absence of quartz/albite within dolomites of the East Shale Basin (ESB) suggests dolomitizing fluids only interacted with carbonate strata. We conclude that replacement dolomitization resulted from connate Devonian seawater circulating through aquifers and faults during shallow burial. SDC precipitated during deep burial from basinal brines sourced from basal carbonates (ESB) and clastic aquifers (WSB, PRA). Lithium-rich formation waters suggest basinal brines originated as residual evapo-concentrated Middle Devonian seawater that interacted with basal aquifers and ascended faults during the Antler and Laramide Orogenies. These results corroborate those of previous studies but are verified by new integrated analysis of multiple datasets. New insights emphasize the importance of basal aquifers and residual evapo-concentrated seawater in dolomitization, which is potentially applicable to other regionally dolomitized basins.

Publication Information

Stacey, J., Hollis, C., Corlett, H., & Koeshidayatullah, A. (2020). Burial dolomitization driven by modified seawater and basal aquifer‐sourced brines: Insights from the Middle and Upper Devonian of the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin. Basin Research. DOI:


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