The Cambrian Mount Simon Sandstone has been the subject of extensive study and multiple industrial-scale carbon storage demonstrations at Decatur, Illinois, USA. The development of a reliable paleoenvironmental model is critical to successful large-scale carbon dioxide (CO2) storage, but is complicated by the need to interpret pre-vegetation sedimentation processes. The present study presents a paleoenvironmental model of the Lower Mount Simon Sandstone, based on analysis of primary sedimentary structures in two cores and four complete high-resolution resistivity logs (FMI).
The Lower Mount Simon Sandstone represents a vertical “drying-up” sequence composed of three associated depositional units: a north–south oriented coastal system at the base, an eastward-directed fluvial unit in the middle, and a westward-directed eolian system at the top that recycled medium- and fine-grained sand in the basin. Quantitative analysis of fluvial cross-strata indicates that the perennial river system was shallow (c. 1 m deep) with relatively narrow channel belts (c. 1 km). Adjacent sandy eolian-floodplain deposits contain abundant thin, crinkly planar laminae that are enriched in fines and are interpreted as cementation surfaces, likely of biological origin. Deflation lags and wind-ripple strata are commonly interbedded with the crinkly strata, suggesting that the recurrence of erosion and deposition that controlled sedimentary preservation on the floodplain were dominated by eolian transport, re-wetting, and (bio-) cementation. Such a prominent role of exposure to the wind, basin-scale sediment recycling, and eolian removal of fine-grained sediment would have ceased to exist for most climates after the development of vegetation on land, yet, may well be key to understanding the environmental context for early life on Earth.