Abstract

Jurassic sandstones on the Colorado Plateau have been variably bleached through interaction with hydrocarbon-bearing solutions or other reducing agents. Deformation bands in the Navajo Sandstone have a variety of colors in comparison with the host rock color that indicate the timing of bleaching relative to deformation-band formation. White deformation bands in red sandstone indicate that deformation bands were likely permeable at an early dilatant stage in their development history. Field characteristics, petrography, bulk rock chemistry, clay mineralogy, and geochemical modeling show that bleached deformation bands experienced an episode of chemical reduction where fluids removed some iron and left the remaining iron as pyrite and magnetite. Mass-balance calculations show that as much as 10 kg of chemically reducing fluid per 100 g of rock (1500 pore volumes of fluid) are necessary to remove 0.1 wt.% iron from a deformation band. These large pore volumes suggest that moving, reducing solutions regionally bleached the sandstone white, and bleached deformation bands resulted where deformation bands provided localized fluid access to unbleached, red sandstone during an initial dilatant stage. Alternatively, access of reducing soil solutions may be provided by gravity-driven, unsaturated flow in arid to semiarid vadose zones. Color and chemical composition is a valuable index to the pathway and timing of hydrocarbon movement through both host rocks and deformation bands.

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