Abstract

Crack-seal texture within fracture cements in the Triassic El Alamar Formation, NE Mexico, shows that the fractures opened during precipitation of quartz cements; later, overlapping calcite cements further occluded pore space. Previous workers defined four systematic fracture sets, A (oldest) to D (youngest), with relative timing constrained by crosscutting relationships. Quartz fluid inclusion homogenization temperatures are higher within Set B (148 ± 20°C) than in Set C (105 ± 12°C). These data and previous burial history modelling are consistent with Set C forming during exhumation. Fluid inclusions in Set C quartz have higher salinity than those in Set B (22.9 v. 14.2 wt% NaCl equivalent, respectively), and Set C quartz cement is more enriched in 18O (20.2 v. 18.7‰ VSMOW). Under most assumptions about the true temperature during fracture opening, the burial duration, the amount of cement precipitated and fluid-flow patterns, it appears that the fracture fluid became depleted in 18O and enriched in 13C. This isotopic evolution, combined with increasing salinity, suggests that throughout fracture opening there was a gravity-driven influx of fluid from upsection Jurassic evaporites, which form a regional décollement. Fracture opening amid downward fluid motion suggests that fracturing was driven by external stresses such as tectonic stretching or unloading, rather than increases in fluid pressure.

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