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AAPG Bulletin


AAPG Bulletin, V. 96, No. 12 (December 2012), P. 21932214.

Copyright copy2012. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.


Open or closed geochemical systems during diagenesis in sedimentary basins: Constraints on mass transfer during diagenesis and the prediction of porosity in sandstone and carbonate reservoirs

Knut Bjorlykke,1 Jens Jahren2

1Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1047 Blindern, Oslo, Norway; [email protected]
2Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1047 Blindern, Oslo, Norway; [email protected]


Descriptions of mineralogy and textural relationships in sandstones and limestones have been used to establish a sequence of diagenetic events (epigenesis), involving mineral dissolution and precipitation, which have been interpreted to have occurred during the burial history. Published epigenetic sequences commonly imply a geochemically open system with very significant changes in the bulk chemical composition of the sediments during burial. Near-surface diagenetic reactions may be open, involving significant changes in the sediment composition and formation of secondary porosity caused by high pore-water flow rates of meteoric water or reactions with sea water near the sea floor. Calculations show that the bulk chemical composition of the sediments below the reach of high pore-water flow rates of meteoric water or hydrothermal convection should remain nearly constant during progressive burial because of limited pore-water flow. Mass transport between shales and sandstones is also limited because the pore water is, in most cases, buffered by the same minerals so that the concentration gradients are low. Recent studies show that silica released from clay-mineral reactions in mudstones has been precipitated locally as small quartz crystals and not exported to adjacent sandstones. If the geochemical constraints for mass transfer during burial diagenetic reactions are accepted, the chemical reactions involved in diagenesis can be written as balanced equations. This offers the possibility to make predictions about reservoir quality based on assumptions about primary sediment composition related to facies and provenance. Large-scale changes in the bulk composition of sandstones and mudstones during burial diagenesis have been suggested, but because such changes cannot be explained chemically and physically, no predictions can be made. Burial diagenetic processes are, in most cases, not episodic but occur as slow adjustments to increased stress and temperature, driving the sediments toward increased mechanical and thermodynamic stability. As a result, the porosity of a single lithology must decrease during progressive burial, but each lithology has a different porosity curve. This article discusses quantitative calculations and estimates that show clearly that burial diagenesis must represent geochemically nearly closed systems where mineral dissolution and precipitation must be balanced. This provides a theoretical basis for the modeling and prediction of reservoir quality.

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