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Paying Attention to Mudrocks: Priceless!

edited by

Daniel Larsen
Department of Earth Sciences
University of Memphis
Memphis, Tennessee 38152
USA

Sven O. Egenhoff
Department of Geosciences
Colorado State University
322 Natural Resources Building
Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1482
USA

Neil S. Fishman
U.S. Geological Survey
Denver, Colorado
USA
and
Hess Corporation
1501 McKinney Street
Houston, Texas 77010
USA

Special Paper 515


3300 Penrose Place, P.O. Box 9140 Boulder, Colorado 80301-9140, USA

2015
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Copyright © 2015, The Geological Society of America (GSA), Inc. All rights reserved. Copyright
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Cover, front: Outcrop image of Union Springs Member of Devonian Marcellus Formation,
exposed in the Seneca Stone quarry in Seneca Falls (Onondaga County), New York, USA. Note how
different lithologies are not only present in the exposure but that structural deformation varies as a
function of lithology. See Chapter 8 by Blood and Lash for details regarding the depositional and
diagenetic history of the Marcellus Formation. Photo by Lindell Bridges; courtesy Randy Blood,
EQT Production. Back, upper: Scanning electron microscope backscatter image from the upper
shale member of the Devonian–Mississippian Bakken Formation, North Dakota, of a rhombic-
shaped pyrite crystal with inclusions of dolomite. Petrological examinations indicate that the pyrite
is pseudomorphic after dolomite. The sample is from the Texaco well (depth of ~3367.5 m). See
Chapter 7 by Fishman et al. for additional information regarding diagenesis in the upper shale
member. Image by Neil S. Fishman, U.S. Geological Survey (currently at Hess Corporation). Back,
lower: Schematic depositional model of the late Cambrian Alum Shale Formation, as deciphered
from a core drilled adjacent to the Andrarum quarry, Scania, southern Sweden. Recorded in this
core are multiple events of sea-level falls during deposition of the Alum on a Cambrian shelf, most
of which occurred when bottom waters were intermittently dysoxic. See Chapter 5 by Egenhoff et
al. for additional details regarding the sedimentological framework of the Alum. Model by Sven O.
Egenhoff, Colorado State University.

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
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Contents

Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . v
Sven O. Egenhoff, Neil S. Fishman, and Daniel Larsen

1. Modern muds of Laguna Mar Chiquita (Argentina): Particle size and organic matter
geochemical trends from a large saline lake in the thick-skinned Andean foreland . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Michael M. McGlue, Geoffrey S. Ellis, and Andrew S. Cohen

2. Organic sedimentation in modern lacustrine systems: A case study from Lake Malawi,
East Africa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Geoffrey S. Ellis, Barry J. Katz, Christopher A. Scholz, and Peter K. Swart

3. Authigenic clay minerals in lacustrine mudstones . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49


Daniel M. Deocampo

4. Pedogenic mud aggregates and sedimentation patterns between basalt flows (Jurassic Kalkrand
Formation, Namibia) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
Elizabeth H. Gierlowski-Kordesch, Heather C. Weismiller, Alycia L. Stigall, and Daniel I. Hembree

5. Sedimentology of SPICE (Steptoean positive carbon isotope excursion): A high-resolution


trace fossil and microfabric analysis of the middle to late Cambrian Alum Shale Formation,
southern Sweden . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87
Sven O. Egenhoff, Neil S. Fishman, Per Ahlberg, Jörg Maletz, Allison Jackson, Ketki Kolte,
Heather Lowers, James Mackie, Warren Newby, and Matthew Petrowsky

6. Mineralogy and petrology of the Paleocene Clayton and Porters Creek Formations, Missouri,
USA: Influence of Cretaceous-Paleogene impact debris and diagenesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103
Daniel Larsen, Daniel J. Ashe, and John Gustavson

7. Petrology and diagenetic history of the upper shale member of the Late Devonian–Early
Mississippian Bakken Formation, Williston Basin, North Dakota . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125
Neil S. Fishman, Sven O. Egenhoff, Adam R. Boehlke, and Heather A. Lowers

8. Dynamic redox conditions in the Marcellus Shale as recorded by pyrite framboid


size distributions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153
David R. Blood and Gary G. Lash

iii
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Introduction

Siliciclastic mudrocks, often termed shales, represent more than two thirds of all sedimentary rocks
on Earth (Potter et al., 2005), yet they are also the least understood. The topic of mudstone deposition
and diagenesis has only recently begun to emerge as important and widely recognized (e.g., Schieber et
al., 2007; Taylor and Macquaker, 2014), mostly because of increasing interest from the petroleum industry
(e.g., Kaminski, 2014). In spite of their fine grain size and low permeabilities, mudstones have contributed
significantly to North American production of natural gas. The abundance of geological units in the United
States that contain economically recoverable amounts of shale gas led to an oversupply and subsequent drop
in the price of natural gas in 2008, from which prices have yet to appreciably recover (Gotham et al., 2013).
But it is not only the petroleum sector that has focused on the significance of mudstones: clay minerals in
fine-grained sediments are sought after to provide raw materials incorporated into liners for landfills (e.g.,
Moran and Hettiarachchi, 2011), both at the base as well as sealing the tops of them. Clay minerals from
fine-grained rocks are also made into ceramics used in every household, they aid in the process of paper
making, are an essential component for producing cement, and are even used in medicine (e.g., Barua et al.,
2014). An understanding of shale sedimentology, the make-up of shales and muddy sediments from different
environments, and modification of muddy sediments by post-depositional processes is therefore crucial for
a wide variety of practical uses of fine-grained sediments and sedimentary rocks. The desire to broaden our
knowledge of mudrocks and further research on them was the motivation for organizing a technical session
at the GSA Annual Meeting in 2011, and this volume is an outgrowth of that session.
The case studies included in this volume span two overall thematic blocks: the first one focuses on mud-
stone deposition in several settings and the second focuses on the diagenetic processes that have affected
important mudstone units. The two papers opening the volume (McGlue et al. and Ellis et al.) describe
recent lake sedimentation from South America and Africa, respectively. Deocampo discusses the depo-
sitional and early diagenetic controls on clay mineral composition in modern and ancient lacustrine sedi-
ments. The paper by Gierlowski-Kordesch et al. focuses on sedimentology of Jurassic terrestrial mudstone
interlayers in basalt flows. Egenhoff et al. describe Cambrian marine mudstones from Scandinavia. The
last three papers (Larsen et al., Fishman et al., and Blood and Lash) describe the diagenesis of mudrocks in
ancient marine successions.
It is well known that lacustrine rocks have been the source for petroleum in a variety of sedimentary
units around the world (Katz and Lin, 2014). In Chapter 1, McGlue et al. describe deep-lake strata of modern
Laguna Mar Chiquita in central Argentina. This lake records deposition of potential source rocks during lake-
level highstands and shows only minimal lateral variation of organic-rich facies in the profundal part of this
lacustrine setting. The paper stresses the importance of lake basins in thick-skinned foreland basins where
they may represent valuable source rocks and unconventional reservoirs, whereas in thin-skinned settings
back-bulge and wetland strata are more important.
In contrast, a modern tropical rift basin provides the study area for Chapter 2 by Ellis et al. Their inves-
tigations of the organic geochemistry show that about one third of the organic material in the lake sediments
stems from primary productivity in Lake Malawi. Dilution of organic matter by inorganic sediment in Lake
Malawi plays a key role in determining the organic content of the sediment, and the degree of dilution varies
according to the amount of local terrestrial input. The subdivision of organic-rich and organic-poor sedi-
ments on the lake bottom is a result of physical processes: dense, non-organic terrestrial material is separated
from less dense organic material, the latter being preferentially transported offshore. Ellis et al. illustrate how
intermediate water depth areas of this tropical syn-rift lake with shallow bathymetric gradients are the most
conducive settings for source-rock potential, not the most distal deep-lake environments.

Egenhoff, S.O., Fishman, N.S., and Larsen, D., Introduction, in Larsen, D., Egenhoff, S.O., and Fishman, N.S., eds., Paying Atten-
tion to Mudrocks: Priceless!: Geological Society of America Special Paper 515, p. v–vii, doi:10.1130/2015.2515(00). For permission
to copy, contact editing@geosociety.org. © 2015 The Geological Society of America. All rights reserved.

v
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vi Introduction

In Chapter 3, Deocampo provides a comprehensive review of clay mineral authigenesis in lacustrine


settings, particularly in modern and ancient African lake basins. Boundary conditions for forming authigenic
clays include pore or surface waters that are alkaline, silica input into these lakes is high, the lake water
contains dissolved magnesium, and overall they are sediment-starved. These conditions are generally more
likely to be met in underfilled lakes (after Carroll and Bohacs, 1999) in evaporite basins with siliceous input
from either volcaniclastic or hydrothermal sources. Deocampo’s paper then provides a diagenetic framework
for clay mineral formation, especially in underfilled lake basins.
Staying on the African continent in Chapter 4, Gierlowski-Kordesch et al. focus on an unusual setting
for siliciclastic mudstones where several meter-thick units are intercalated with Jurassic basalt flows. These
are the only mudstones reported in this volume that clearly originated in an entirely non-lacustrine terres-
trial setting as part of infilling small tectonically formed depressions. Sheetflood and, less commonly, grain
flow processes delivered pedogenic mud aggregates and other siliciclastic sediment to the depressions, with
paleosol development and marsh deposition playing only minor roles.
Marine mudrock successions are being successfully exploited for hydrocarbons, especially in the United
States, with intense interest also focused on these types of rocks worldwide. One of the key units of inter-
est in Europe is the Cambrian Alum Shale that is present in the subsurface beneath the Baltic Sea and also
in surface exposures in parts of Sweden and Norway. In Chapter 5, the study by Egenhoff et al. shows how
careful examination from one critical core and incorporating hitherto unrecognized fecal strings allows for
reconstructing the sedimentary environment in which the Alum Shale was deposited. Importantly, the fecal
strings point to at least dysoxic conditions at the time of mudstone deposition in much of the Alum succes-
sion, which thereby serves to revise existing models that proposed mostly anoxic conditions during deposi-
tion of organic-rich black shales in the Alum.
In Chapter 6, Larsen et al. investigate the mineralogy of clay-rich units directly overlying the Cretaceous-
Paleogene boundary in southeastern Missouri. Through X-ray diffraction and petrographic study, Larsen et
al. evaluated the significance of impact debris related to the Chicxulub impact event on sediment composi-
tion and subsequent diagenesis. Not only does the mineralogy of the clays change significantly in mudstones
deposited post-impact, but sedimentological and paleontological data also suggest that no early Paleogene
sediments are preserved in the study site. The authors conclude that the absence of volcaniclastic grains and
associated heavy minerals in the early Tertiary sediments argues against altered volcanic detritus causing the
change in mineralogy. The presence of altered impact spherules in clasts and key clay mineral characteristics
favor altered impact-related material as a possible source for some of the clays and zeolites and diagenetic
modification of detrital clays in a marine shelf environment subject to variably reducing chemical conditions.
The Bakken Formation in the Williston Basin of North Dakota and adjacent Montana has been the
prime focus of exploration activities of the past years. Nevertheless, information on the two organic-rich
siliciclastic mudstone units that bound the productive and mostly silt-rich middle Bakken member is scarce.
Fishman et al. present in Chapter 7 the first comprehensive study focusing on the diagenesis of the upper
Bakken shale, and the relationship between depositional environment and diagenesis, including mudstone
fracturing. The succession of authigenic minerals reflects an evolution of pore water from initially being oxic
to eventually anoxic. This study of the upper Bakken member clearly shows that diagenesis of siliciclastic
mudstones is directly linked to the depositional environment, as the depositional setting governs the original
composition of the sediment.
Blood and Lash document in Chapter 8 the diameter of pyrite framboids throughout the Devonian
Marcellus Shale in two cores from West Virginia. Results from this study, which focuses on the diagenesis
of one of the major shale gas plays in the United States, indicate that sedimentary conditions fluctuated
between anoxic-euxinic and dysoxic during the basal two transgressive-regressive cycles in the Marcel-
lus. The diameters of pyrite framboids suggest that the more proximal portion of the Marcellus shelf
experienced overall improved and slightly more oxygen-rich bottom-water conditions during the second
transgressive-regressive cycles in comparison to the first, whereas the distal part of the shelf remained in
an anoxic-euxinic realm.
This volume aims at presenting current research on mudstones and shales from different settings
focusing on several key aspects. Whereas some of the papers concentrate on units that are currently explo-
ration targets or used for applications of the mineral industry, others focus on mudstones of fundamen-
tal scientific interest. But all of the papers are to provide a deeper understanding of depositional and
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Introduction vii

diagenetic processes associated with mudrocks in order to enhance our understanding of fine-grained
rocks in their multiple varieties.
Sven O. Egenhoff
Neil S. Fishman
Daniel Larsen

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Introduction
Sven O. Egenhoff, Neil S. Fishman and Daniel Larsen

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unlimited copies of items in GSA's journals for noncommercial use in classrooms to further education and
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