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An analysis of diagenesis and mass transfer is made drawing on the literature and our work from the Brazilian shelf and Barbados. It is shown (although not unanticipated) that the initial sedimentary mineral composition is a major control of diagenetic products. For example, dioctahedral clay minerals, chlorite, and quartz characterize arkoses, whereas trioctahedral clays and zeolites are most commonly found in lithic sandstone. Dioctahedral smectite-rich shales exhibit the classical smectite/illite to illite burial pattern. However, mafic, trioctahedral clay-rich shales show a burial sequence of saponite to chlorite-rich phases with increasing burial depth. Other compositionally dependent reaction paths are also discussed.
To assess mass transfer between shale and sandstone during burial, all major diagenetic pathways must be known for both rock types. A model for the Brazilian shelf sandstone-shale sequence is used as an example of quantification of mass transfer. Both sands and shales act as nearly isochemical systems; sandstones lose less than 2% K+ to shales, and gain less than 3% H2O, H+, and CO2 during burial diagenesis.
It is shown using data from Barbados and the literature that burial diagenetic reactions are essentially irreversible, at least until the stage of weathering. Thus, these reactions can be used to assess the amount of overburden removed. Comparison of the diagenetically produced trend of illite/smectite compositions with depth in Barbados to trends produced in areas which have undergone only subsidence (e.g., Gulf Coast) suggests that about 3,300 to 9,800 ft (1,000 to 3,000 m) of overburden has been removed in Barbados.
The irreversible and nearly isochemical nature of burial diagenetic reactions places constraints on the role of diagenesis in the sedimentary rock cycle. An attempt is made to quantify the global important of these reactions in the rock cycle.
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