Genesis of fault hosted carbonate fracture cements in a naturally high CO2 province, South Viking Graben, UK North Sea
Lee, David Robert
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The Late Jurassic Brae oilfields in the South Viking Graben of the northern North Sea contain naturally high concentrations of carbon dioxide (up to 35 mol %). Fields immediately adjacent to the graben bounding fault display the highest concentrations, with CO2 content decreasing eastward into the basin. It is thought the CO2 was introduced into the region via this fault. This thesis examines the possible source of the high CO2 present in the region, focusing on the graben margin fault as a potential conduit for CO2 flux from depth Investigation of cored sections penetrating the graben bounding fault revealed numerous carbonate cemented fracture arrays. The morphology of the fractures and cements is attributed to hydraulic fracturing induced by episodic release of overpressured fluids up the margin fault from depth. Periods of rapid subsidence omnipresent throughout the tectonic history of the graben are conducive to the generation of overpressure; a feature commonly reported in the region. Samples from the carbonate fracture cements were analysed using a host of techniques, including SEM, EMPA, fluid inclusion, and stable δ13C ‐ δ18O analyses. Using SEM analysis, at least five generations of dolomite cement with concomitant iron sulphide were observed. Cement chemistry and textures indicate precipitation from concentrated CO2–rich fluids. A reported high salinity basinal influx from depth concomitant with proposed CO2 charge into the region ~70 Ma is a probable source for the dissolved solids subsequently precipitated as carbonate in the fracture networks. Fluid inclusion analysis provided sufficient evidence to suggest the influx of hot fluids into the region, presumably sourced from deep in the margin fill. Two distinct δ13C vs. δ18O trends are observed in the isotope data from four wells studied. The trends are interpreted as differential mixing between ascending basinal fluids rich in dissolved inorganic carbon and in situ formation waters dominated by organically derived carbon following the onset of thermal decarboxylation in the Kimmeridge Clay Formation. Dissolution of Zechstein carbonates underlying the region is a credible source for the isotopically heavy CO2 found adjacent to the graben margin (δ13CCO2 = ‐2 to ‐5 ‰) and incorporated into the carbonate cements. Inferred variations in fluid mixing from well to well have implications on the variability of fluid flow along the graben margin with respect to contrasting fault morphologies. A Rayleigh fractionation model accommodating CO2 degassing from a hot ascending isotopically heavy fluid can be invoked to explain the observed carbon‐oxygen isotopic covariations in the fracture cements. Geochemical modelling simulating the ascent of CO2‐rich waters suggests degassing has limited impact on precipitation volumes, with fluid‐rock reactions the most likely driver for extensive carbonate mineralisation observed.