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ABSTRACT: Significance of Vein-Filling Calcites: Richland Creek Fracture Zone, Lower Austin Chalk (Upper Cretaceous), North-Central Texas

DAWSON, WILLIAM C., Texaco Inc., Houston, TX, and D. F. REASER, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX

The Richland Creek fracture zone near Milford (Ellis County), Texas, exposes gently flexured lower Austin Chalk (Coniacian) strata, which have been disrupted by numerous, northeast-trending (N35 degrees to 40 degrees E), small-scale faults (displacements less than 3 m) and closely spaced en echelon joints. Slickensides, preserved on outer surfaces of vein-filling calcites, record movement along these faults. Swarms of calcite-filled microfractures are developed locally. Most associated joints are stained with iron oxides, but have remained uncemented. This intensely fractured and faulted outcrop represents the termination of small northeastward-trending graben along the northernmost extension of the Balcones fault system.

Multiple generations of coarsely crystalline nonferroan calcite cemented Richland Creek faults. Individual calcite crystals range up to several centimeters (maximum length) and are oriented perpendicular to vein walls. The width of these calcite veins ranges from 2 to 45 cm. Calcite crystals from seven veins were sampled systematically and analyzed for this study. Petrographic textures reveal several episodes of cross-cutting veins in the Austin Chalk. En echelon microfractures commonly are bifurcated and exhibit wispy terminations. The most reasonable origin for these veins is a series of fracturing events caused by increases in prefluid pressure.

Calcite cements from Richland Creek faults have mean stable isotopic compositions of d18O -8.4 o/oo (PDB) and isotope {13}C +1.7 o/oo (PDB). The oxygen isotopic composition of these vein-filling calcites is significantly depleted relative to that of the adjacent Austin Chalk matrix (d18O -3.3 o/oo PDB) and Cretaceous seawater. Similar isotopic compositions have been reported for vein-filling calcites from other Austin Chalk outcrops and deep subsurface Austin Chalk cores. Such depleted oxygen isotopic values indicate warm fluids moving updip along the Balcones fault system. Strontium isotope ratios of Richland Creek vein-filling calcites suggest that the Austin Chalk sourced the calcite (i.e., semiclosed diagenetic system).

Calcite-cemented fractures occur in Austin Chalk outcrops, as well as in subsurface Austin strata. The Richland Creek fracture zone is analogous to fractured Austin Chalk reservoirs and, consequently, provides insight concerning the distribution and density of fracturing within the subsurface Austin Chalk trend of south-central Texas.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91014©1992 AAPG GCAGS and GC-SEPM Meeting, Jackson, Mississippi, October 21-23, 1992 (2009)