The diagenetic evolution of kaolin and illitic minerals in sandstones is described here. The structural characterization of these minerals, the possible reaction pathways leading to their crystallization, and the origin of the fluids involved are discussed specifically.
While early precipitation of kaolinite is in general related to flushing by meteoric waters, subsequent diagenetic kaolinite-to-dickite transformation probably results from invasion by acidic fluids of organic origin. Dickite is the stable polytype in most sandstone formations and the kaolinite-to-dickite conversion is kinetically controlled.
The conventional model of kaolin illitization, assuming a thermodynamic control in a closed system, is discussed and compared to an alternative model in which illitization of kaolin is not coupled to dissolution of K-feldspar (Berger et al., 1997). In the latter model, illite crystallization at the expense of kaolin implies that an energy barrier is overcome either by an increased K+/H+ activity ratio in solution or by a considerable temperature increase.