ABSTRACT

Anomalous carbonate horizons with intercrystalline hydrocarbon residue, cone-in-cone structures, and calcite “beef” veins in adjacent sandstone beds record potential evidence for hydrocarbon generation and seepage in the middle to upper Turonian Frontier Formation from the Uinta Basin, Utah and Colorado. Eight carbonate occurrences, all encountered within distal delta-front facies (thin-bedded sandstones and siltstones), were sampled at outcrop locations from the southern and eastern margins of Dinosaur National Monument. Seven petrographic facies (PF1–PF7) were identified using standard petrographic and cathodoluminescence microscopy: PF1, large and small botryoids and fans; PF2, yellow-brown spherules; PF3, microcrystalline spar cement; PF4, blocky spar; PF5, prismatic spar; PF6, drusy mosaic spar; and PF7, dolomite. Facies PF1–PF3 are synsedimentary phases comprising a large percentage of carbonate horizon volume, whereas PF4–PF7 are late-stage fabrics. The δ13C values of PF1–PF3 (−9.9‰ to −20.0‰) are consistent with contributions from biogenic methane seepage during deposition and early diagenesis. Brecciated PF1 fabrics and blowout depressions within sandstone horizons further indicate significant methane generation during deposition and early burial. Late-stage fabrics contain δ13C (−8.0‰ to −17.3‰) and δ18O (−6.5‰ to −13.5‰) values consistent with progressive burial, during which intercrystalline hydrocarbon residue, cone-in-cone structures, and calcite beef veins were formed by the thermal maturation of organic matter from enclosing distal delta-front facies. Together, these features reveal the potential for the thin-bedded facies of the Frontier Formation distal delta front to serve as a potentially viable petroleum subsystem previously unrecognized in the Uinta–Piceance petroleum province.

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