Although numerous models for the formation of glauconite have been presented, the precise process and micro-environment of glauconitization are still poorly constrained. We characterize the special micromilieu of glauconitization developed during early diagenesis and present a model for glauconite formation in fecal pellets.

Glauconitization at Oker (Central Germany) occurred predominantly in fecal pellets deposited in a shallow marine-lagoonal environment during the Kimmeridgian. Within the fecal pellets, rapid oxidation of organic matter provides the post-depositional, physicochemical conditions favourable for glauconitization. Replacements of matrix calcite, dissolution of detrital quartz, K-feldspar, and clay minerals, and Fe redox reactions were observed within the early micro-environment, followed by the precipitation of euhedral pyrite, matrix-replacive dolomite, and megaquartz accompanied by I-S formation as thin section analyses and SEM observations show. Carbonate geochemical compositions based on ICP-OES and stable oxygen and carbon isotope signatures demonstrate that glauconite formation started in a suboxic environment at a pH of 7–8 and a temperature of 22±3°C to 37±2°C at maximum.

TEM-EDX-SAED and XRD analyses on separated glauconite fecal pellets and on the <2 μm clay mineral fraction reveal the predominance of authigenic 1Md-glauconite, 1Md-glauconite-smectite, and 1Mdcis-vacant I-S, besides accessory detrital 2M1-illite and montmorillonite. Kinetic modelling of the glauconite (93–94% Fe-illite layers and 6–7% Fe-smectite layers, R3) and of I-S (66–68% Al-illite layers and 32–34% Al-smectite layers, R1) leads us to conclude that the I-S formed solely by slow burial diagenesis, whereas the glauconite formed close to the seafloor, suggesting significantly faster kinetics of the glauconitization reaction compared with smectite-illitization related to burial diagenesis. Thermodynamically, the substitution of octahedral Al3+ for Fe3+ and Mg2+ during the Fe-Mg-smectite to glauconite reaction via the formation of glauconite-smectite mixed-layered clay minerals may have resulted in a higher reaction rate for this low-temperature glauconitization process.

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