The El Imperial Formation (mid-Carboniferous-Lower Permian) constitutes a progradational sandstone-rich succession deposited in the San Rafael foreland basin of western Argentina. Four facies associations have been identified: a basal glacial marine association, a shallow marine association, a deltaic association, and an uppermost fluvial association. Sand-prone deposits in the deltaic association are represented by prodelta and delta-front shales and subordinate fine sandstones (Facies A), deltaic platform, wave-reworked channel mouth-bar sandstones (Facies B), and fluvial-dominated distributary channel sandstones (Facies C). Analysis of framework grains of sandstone samples from Facies B and C shows two distinct mineral assemblages or petrofacies. The quartzose petrofacies is characterized by high contents of quartz and low percentages of feldspar and lithic grains. The quartzolithic petrofacies shows an increase in labile components, in particular lithic fragments, and a concomitant decrease in quartz. The quartzolithic petrofacies shows a source signature. Average detrital modes of sandstones from this petrofacies are similar to those from overlying fluvial sandstones. All wave-reworked, channel mouth-bar sandstones (Facies B) correspond compositionally to the quartzose petrofacies, whereas detrital modes from the distributary-channel sandstones (Facies C) fall into the quartzolithic petrofacies. This correspondence between depositional environment and petrofacies suggests a strong depositional influence on composition (depositional signature). Abrasion (mechanical breakdown) by wave action in shallow marine environments accounts for the quartz-rich nature and paucity of labile grains in the quartzose petrofacies.

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