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Lithological control on fracture cementation in the Keuper Marl (Triassic), north Somerset, UK


The spatial arrangement of gypsum veins as preserved natural hydraulic fractures have been characterized in the Triassic Keuper Marl Formation (UK), a caprock for hydrocarbon reservoirs and CO2 sequestration. The marls cropping out are subdivided into five discrete fracture units based on the presence and abundance of gypsum veins. The nodular gypsum in evaporite horizons provides excess gypsum for nodule-rooted horizontal gypsum veins. Our petrographic observations demonstrate that the development of gypsum veins in beds lacking macroscopic evaporites is closely associated with disseminated gypsum cement in the marls. We interpret that the gypsum veins in marl are sourced from disseminated gypsum cements in the host rocks, based on stratigraphic correlations, and much lower Sr concentrations than gypsum nodules. Gypsum was transported to adjacent veins mainly through diffusion in the low-permeability marls. The localization of gypsum veins and varied Sr concentrations of veins and nodules indicate that the diagenetic fluids are a mix of connate water with meteoric water rather than brines transported from evaporite beds along faults to non-evaporite beds. This results in the absence of gypsum fillings in fractures in rocks without primary gypsum cements. The study implies that the cementation of natural fractures in low-permeability rocks can highly depend on the presence of cement minerals in the host rock.

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