Outcrop-constrained flow and transport models of reflux dolomitization



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Two hydrogeologic models explore reflux dolomitization using two outcrop datasets at different scales to constrain transient boundary conditions and heterogeneous petrophysical properties. A platform-scale petrophysical model of the Permian San Andres Formation was built from outcrop and subsurface data following a reservoir modeling approach that preserves outcrop heterogeneity and incorporates a sequence stratigraphic framework. This model was used as input for hydrogeological simulations of hypersaline fluid flow and solute transport during the accumulation and compaction of the platform. Boundary conditions change over time, as relative sealevel fluctuations drive sedimentation, depositional environment migration, topographic gradients, and location, size and salinity of the brine source. The potential volume and distribution of dolomite formed is inferred by a magnesium mass-balance. The composite result of reflux events at various orders of stratigraphic hierarchy is a complex dolomite pattern that resembles that observed on San Andres outcrops. Dolostone bodies across the platform may be generated by different combinations of favorable conditions, including proximity to the brine source, zones of higher permeability, permeability contrasts, and latent reflux. A meter-scale reactive transport model of the Albian Upper Glen Rose Formation simulates deposition of three high-frequency cycles punctuated by three brine reflux events. The simulator determines flow, solute and reactive transport along the flow paths, revealing the spatial and temporal distribution of calcite dissolution, and precipitation of dolomite and sulfate. The model recreates fully and partially dolomitized cycles within the time and lithological constrains on Glen Rose outcrops. Our results show that the distribution of dolomite within a high-frequency cycle may be the net result of intercycle processes, whereby dolomitizing fluids sourced from younger cycles flow across stratigraphically significant boundaries. We also show that variations in dolomite abundance and the unfulfilled dolomitization potential control the contemporaneous propagation of multiple dolomite fronts and the coalescence of discrete dolomite bodies. Results show that reflux is an effective and efficient mechanism to dolomitize carbonate formations that progresses simultaneously with sediment accumulation. Dolomitization is the cumulative result of many short-lived reflux events, sourced in different locations and times, and amalgamation of successive dolostone bodies. This model contrasts with previous studies that approached dolomitization of a carbonate platform as a discrete reflux event and current interpretations that relate dolomite bodies to their most immediate stratigraphic surfaces.