ABSTRACT

Analysis of Holocene sedimentary seascape is focused on the Red Sea windward Al-Wajh platform margin, its central lagoon, and nearby isolated platforms based on data that include mapped ecological facies (habitats), water depths, grain sizes, and allochem types and abundances determined from thin sections. On this basis, a depositional model applicable to Red Sea Plio-Pleistocene and other ancient icehouse carbonate platforms is presented. The model highlights favorable reservoirs in analogous ancient systems to include coral crests and columnar framework habitats with primary porosity developed in boundstone lithologies and windward platform margins to contain considerable open pore space, including cavernous openings, of which not all should be anticipated to be occluded with marine cements and sediments. Meteoric diagenesis is expected to be minor as limited freshwater is available due to extreme aridity, but may play a role during glaciation.

Most habitats have potential for secondary (enhanced) porosity resulting from dissolution of aragonite skeletons, particularly mollusk shells and calcareous coral (Scleractinia) endoskeletons. Central-lagoon habitats are expected to have the least favorable reservoir potential of environments considered because they are dominated by peloids. Central-lagoon sediment differs from other published localities, having higher peloid abundances, greater peloid distribution, and little or no association with Halimeda and quartz grains. Under the likely scenario that platform-interior sediments are completely bioturbated and comprise peloid-rich, grain-dominated fabrics, with many smaller peloids (most of them likely fecal pellets) at or near 4 μm in size (i.e., mud fraction), it is possible that grain size will control pore size once the considered deposits are lithified. If so, platform-interior sediments will lithify as mudstones, wackestones, or very fine-grained grainstones, an outcome which might otherwise be unexpected given the abundance of coarse peloid grains.

The Al-Wajh platform is compared with 15 Holocene analogs and found to be unique with respect to rift-margin type, restricted-marine circulation, in having a lagoon with high peloid content, and lack of karst. In further comparison with ancient reservoir analogs, two greenhouse and four icehouse, it compares favorably to icehouse platforms deposited in rift basins with respect to mineralogy of deposition, meter-scale cycle thicknesses, and general peloid content and distribution. It provides a snapshot as to how an icehouse platform might have nucleated and attached along an active rift margin; it is a broadly applicable carbonate analog for the Red Sea Plio-Pleistocene and similar icehouse, rift basins.

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