Abstract

Observations and hydrothermal experiments were used to derive new information about how clay grain coats inhibit quartz cement and preserve porosity in deeply buried sandstones. Samples of deeply buried, porous sandstones with different types of clay coats were split in two, coats removed from one of each pair of splits, and grain surfaces inspected with scanning electron microscopy. Quartz grains in a fluvial-deltaic sandstone buried to 115°C had no visible authigenic quartz on grain surfaces cleaned of diagenetic chlorite coats, though well-developed overgrowths occurred on nearby, naturally uncoated grains. However, in similar sandstones buried to ≥164°C, quartz-grain surfaces exposed by chlorite-coat removal were covered with small (∼5 μm), mainly anhedral, syntaxial quartz overgrowths. Similar overgrowths were observed under various detrital and diagenetic clay coats in porous eolian sandstones buried to temperatures up to 215°C. We conclude that clay coats may retard quartz nucleation at moderate temperatures, but at high temperatures, many coats permit quartz nucleation and preserve porosity by limiting cement growth. To investigate cement growth-limitation mechanisms, samples with coats removed were subjected to quartz-cementing conditions in a hydrothermal reactor. During experiments, the naturally occurring small overgrowths on clay-cleaned grains coalesced and grew, suggesting that clay particles in coats inhibit cement growth by forming barriers to early-overgrowth coalescence. Although the fraction of grain-surface coverage is the primary control on cement inhibition by coats, cement growth–interference textures vary with coat type, providing a mechanism by which coat composition may be a secondary control on inhibitory effectiveness. In deeply buried sandstones, quartz cement can fill significant microporosity within diagenetic chlorite coats, potentially affecting mechanical and petrophysical rock properties.

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