Investigation of core and outcrop samples of the Cenomanian Natih-B Member (North Oman) indicates that the different lithofacies present experienced rather different early diagenesis shortly after deposition. Transmitted-light, cathodoluminescence and backscattered scanning-electron microscopy, as well as stable-isotopic, X-ray diffraction and total organic carbon (TOC) analyses were employed to delineate the major controls on the cyclic pattern of early diagenesis and hydrocarbon source potential.

The Natih-B intrashelf basinal carbonates are composed of pelagic sediments that exhibit high-frequency cyclicity marked by decimetre-thick lithofacies alternations, mainly between: Lithofacies A compacted, partially bioturbated, skeletal, organic carbon-rich mudstone to wackestone; and Lithofacies B uncompacted, extensively bioturbated, skeletal, sparry-calcite rich wackestone to packstone. Individual units are composed variously of authigenic and biogenic calcite (58.1–97.6%, average 78.5%) and organic carbon (0.3–13.7% TOC, average 3.6%), together with minor quartz, clay, pyrite, dolomite and phosphatic material (fish debris). Lithofacies A contains relatively more organic carbon, clay, pyrite and dolomite than Lithofacies B and constitutes an excellent source rock. Diagenetic textures of Lithofacies A are dominated by compactional deformation of burrow fabrics, faecal pellets and solution seams, in addition to zoned/bright luminescent, non-ferroan sparry and isopachous calcite cement in and around uncompacted foraminifer tests, in an uncemented matrix. In contrast, Lithofacies B does not show any signs of compaction other than microstylolites and is dominated by zoned/dull luminescent, non-ferroan calcite microspar replacement, in addition to pore-filling, predominantly dull-luminescent, non-ferroan, sparry calcite cement. Moreover, Lithofacies B shows evidence of isopachous and meniscus-style cementation, together with geopetal structures and mictritic peloids. Stable-isotopic compositions of both lithofacies were determined from whole-rock samples (δ13C = −0.9 to +0.9‰, average +0.3‰; δ18O = −5.6 to −3.7‰, average −4.8‰) and sparry calcite (both cement and matrix) subsamples (δ13C = −0.6 to +1.2‰, average +0.6‰; δ18O = −5.7 to −3.7‰, average −4.3‰); all results being relative to Vienna Pee Dee Belemnite.

These petrographic and isotopic characteristics suggest that the Natih-B abundant calcite cements and replacements were precipitated early, prior to compaction, mainly from ‘normal’ (open, oxic) seawater at slightly elevated depositional temperatures. Some of the slightly negative δ13C values, however, indicate an addition of isotopically light carbon, probably derived from organic-matter oxidation by organisms living in marine pore waters. Based on evidence of extensive seafloor bioturbation and cementation, and their position within the depositional succession, the tops of Lithofacies B (wackestones to packstones) are interpreted as ‘discontinuity surfaces’ that cap shallowing-upward, fifth-order cycles, formed as a function of sediment starvation and increased bottom-current activity during relative sea-level stillstand/turnaround. In contrast, Lithofacies A (mudstones to wackestones) is believed to reflect high organic production coupled with high sedimentation rate and rapid burial. These conditions limited total infaunal colonization and extensive calcite precipitation, and preserved organic matter together with some escape burrows and in-place fauna, suggesting episodic sediment influx when more accommodation was available and seafloor diagenesis was minimized during relative sea-level rises. The relatively higher amounts of pyrite and dolomite in Lithofacies A likely indicate organic-matter degradation by bacterial sulphate reduction in anoxic pore waters during shallow burial.

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