The Permian White Rim Sandstone is a partly exhumed, primary reservoir of the Tar Sand Triangle accumulation in southeastern Utah. In the Elaterite Basin (Canyonlands National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area), the White Rim Sandstone is well exposed and varies in color from white to red, orange, and brown. Superimposed on eolian and marine deposits are three diagenetic facies that impart the coloration and are defined by iron oxide cement concentration as (1) bleached white (low iron), (2) diffuse (moderate iron), and (3) concretionary (concentrated iron). A yellow alteration aureole of bleaching extends up to 10 m (32 ft) into the underlying Organ Rock Shale and up to 20 m (65 ft) into the overlying Moenkopi Formation. These formations surround the White Rim reservoir as fine-grained seals.
Field, petrographic, and geochemical analyses indicate that the White Rim Sandstone records three major diagenetic stages. (1) The reservoir underwent oxidation, which led to the precipitation of thin iron grain coatings. (2) Hydrocarbon migration through the reservoir removed early grain coatings and reprecipitated disseminated and concentrated pyrite cement. (3) The pyrite was later altered to hematite or goethite by oxidizing fluids.
In conventional petroleum exploration, the timing of hydrocarbon migration is often difficult to resolve. This study utilizes the record of mobilized and reprecipitated iron as a tool to constrain interpretations of the timing of hydrocarbon migration relative to seal and trap emplacement. This study has broad application as an exploration tool for deciphering fluid flow in similar clastic reservoirs.