Within compacting mudstone sequences several depth zones can be recognised in which distinctive diagenetic reactions take place. Most striking are those involving carbonate precipitation or replacement. The major carbon source is organic matter which is degraded by various microbiological and inorganic reactions to bicarbonate as one product. Other reactions involving silicates and sesquioxides introduce cations to the porewater system and carbonates are precipitated. Their chemical and isotopic composition can be linked with temperature and depth of formation.

Analysis of some of the literature of sandstone diagenesis suggests that carbonate cements in sandstones often originate in mudstones, and that precipitation may take place far from the site of solute generation. Vast volumes of porewater excluded from mudstones during compaction are channelled into and travel great distances within sand units. Early diagenetic reactions drastically modify the permeability of both potential source and reservoir rocks. The component of horizontal flow is greatly increased and this must affect later migration of liquid hydrocarbons.

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