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Primary Porosity and Submarine Diagenesis in Lower Cretaceous Coral-Rudist Reefs

Scott L. Cross, Robin G. Lighty

Coral-rudist reefs of the Lower Cretaceous Mural limestone, southeastern Arizona, show a pronounced relationship between specific reef facies, primary porosity, and early submarine diagenesis. These large open-shelf reefs differ from the well-studied low-relief rudist buildups, and provide an alternate analog for many Cretaceous reef reservoirs. Arizona buildups have diverse corals, high depositional relief, and a well-developed facies zonation from fore reef to back reef: skeletal grainstone talus, muddy fore reef with branching and lamellar corals, massive reef crest with abundant lamellar corals and sandy matrix, protected thickets of delicate branching corals and large rudist mounds, and a wide sediment apron of well-washed coral, rudist, and benthic foraminiferal sands.

These well-exposed outcrops permit a detailed facies comparison of primary interparticle porosity. Porosity as high as 40% in grainstones was occluded by later subsurface cements. Reef-framework interparticle porosity was negligible because fore-reef coral and back-reef rudist facies were infilled by muds, and high-energy reef-crest frameworks were filled by peloidal submarine cement crusts and muddy skeletal sands. These thick crusts coated lamellar corals in cryptic and open reef-crest areas, and are laminated with ripple and draped bed forms that suggest current influence. Similar peloidal crusts and laminated textures are common magnesium-calcite submarine cement features in modern reefs.

By documenting specific facies control on early cementation and textural variability, patterns of late-stage subsurface diagenesis and secondary porosity may be more easily explained for Cretaceous reef reservoirs. Significant primary porosity might be retained between sands in back-reef facies and within coral skeletons.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91043©1986 AAPG Annual Convention, Atlanta, Georgia, June 15-18, 1986.