Fluid flow in sedimentary basins not only impacts redistribution of the geothermal cycle and precipitation of ore deposits, but also exerts control on hydrocarbon migration and accumulation. However, reconstructing the history of fluid flow in basins that have experienced multiple tectonic deformation events is exceedingly difficult. Here, we examined petrography, in situ U-Pb geochronology, and rare earth element (REE) and C-O isotope geochemistry, as well as fluid inclusion microthermometry of fracture fillings within the Cambrian Niutitang Formation shales at the southeastern margin of the Upper Yangtze platform, southwestern China. The results show that four main fluid flow pulses are identified based on cathodoluminescence images, U-Pb ages, and geochemical data, namely, 446−428 Ma (fibrous calcite and barytocalcite), 343−329 Ma (calcite I), 113 Ma (calcite II), and 63 Ma (calcite III). The fibrous calcite (ca. 446 Ma) and barytocalcite (ca. 428 Ma) veins, corresponding to the late Caledonian Orogeny, show significantly positive Eu-Y anomalies, negative Ce anomalies, and enrichment in heavy REE, similar to their host rocks, suggesting that the mineral-forming fluids were derived mainly from dissolution of the host rocks. An abundance of bitumen inclusions with homogenization temperatures (Th) of 93.1−137.4 °C and high salinities (5−8 wt%) indicate that the first fluid flow pulse occurred during the oil generation stage in a closed fluid system. Calcite I (ca. 343−329 Ma) exhibits REE depletion and high Y/Ho ratios, a low fluid inclusion salinity (2−10 wt%) with Th = 78.4−125.8 °C, and C-O isotopic compositions similar to the underlying marine carbonates. This suggests that calcite I formed in an open fluid system, which was related to the transition from compression to extension during the Hercynian Orogeny. The pre-existing faults were reactivated and opened, resulting in the leakage and reconstruction of hydrocarbon reservoirs. Calcite II (ca. 113.4 Ma) has similar REE+Y patterns and C-O isotopic compositions to the host rocks. It contains abundant single-phase hydrocarbon gas (CH4) inclusions with high Th (164.1−211.1 °C) and salinity (6−14 wt%) values, indicating that the third phase fluid was derived largely from the host rocks and migrated during the early Yanshanian Orogeny. Lastly, calcite III (ca. 62.7 Ma) exhibits extremely low REE concentrations, low δ13CPDB [Peedee belemnite] values (−6.74‰), and low fluid inclusion salinities (0.3−7.0 wt%) with Th = 61.9−97.1 °C, suggesting that the fourth fluid flow pulse was affected by meteoric water to some extent. This can be interpreted to represent an open fluid system, which caused gas dispersion in the Niutitang Formation shales. Our findings provide important references for reconstructing the history of fluid flow in tectonically complex basins worldwide.

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