Mixed carbonate-siliciclastic sequence development influenced by astronomical forcing on a distal foreland, Miocene Dam Formation, eastern Saudi Arabia

Abstract

Given increasing importance of tertiary reservoirs in the Middle East, the Miocene (Upper Aquitanian to mid-Langhian) Dam Formation in eastern Saudi Arabia was cored along a 40 km transect, to develop a high-resolution sequence framework, and examine the role played by astronomical forcing, moderate glacio-eustasy (20- to 40-m sea-level changes), and tectonic deformation in this distal foreland setting. The Dam Formation (up to 80 m thick) contains updip siliciclastics which interfinger downdip with marine carbonates. Siliciclastic facies include paleosol-capped, red mudrock (mudflat), green and gray mudrock (near-shore siliciclastic lagoon), rare mud clast–bearing sandstone (fluvial), and massive very fine to medium sandstone (terrestrial sand sheets, rare tidal channels). Carbonate facies include brecciated carbonates (paleosols), lime/clay-clast quartz wackestone (lag gravel), carbonate laminites and microbial heads and mounds (tidal flat and shallow subtidal), argillaceous quartzose marl (near-shore lagoon), peloid mudstone-wackestone (restricted lagoon), variably quartzose skeletal peloid mudstone to packstone (open lagoon), oolitic grainstone (hypersaline beach, tidal channel), mollusk packstone (hypersaline lagoon border), and foram-mollusk packstone-grainstone (seagrass meadows). The Dam Formation contains eight sequences, each of which contains 2 to 4 parasequence sets or individual parasequences. Sequences and individual parasequences are capped by paleosols and/or erosion surfaces, and microbial laminite caps are rare. Bases of parasequences locally are veneered with ravinement gravel lags or siliciclastics beneath shallowing-upward subtidal carbonates, and lack intercalated deeper water facies. Statistical analysis of core-gamma ray (API) vs depth (m) shows that accumulation rates were ~ 3 to 4 cm/kyr, considerably faster than long-term accommodation rates (~ 1.2 cm/kyr), indicating deposition occurred for only 40% of the time, the remainder of the time being non-depositional during many short-term lowered sea levels, evidenced by the coeval oceanic δ18O curve. Spectral analysis of the core-gamma ray logs show astronomical forcing within the eccentricity, obliquity, and precessional bands. Spectral analysis indicates that the eight Dam sequences (average 10 m thick, range < 5 to 18 m) are a mix of long-term obliquity (~ 1.2 Myr) and long-term eccentricity (400 k.y.) cycles. The 3- to 4.4-m sets/parasequences are short term (~ 100 kyr) cycles, and the 0.7- to 1.25-m parasequences are obliquity and precessional cycles. Given the updip position of the study area, repeated glacio-estutatic sea-level changes caused repeated shallow flooding (< 20 m) and emergence, which generated paleosol-bounded or erosionally capped sequences and parasequences. Although the distal foreland was undergoing synsedimentary deformation and slow but locally variable subsidence, which influenced variable thickness of units, astronomically driven glacio-eustasy was the dominant influence on timing of sequence and parasequence development.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Peter Jenden (Research and Development Department, Saudi Aramco) for stable isotope analyses, and Osama Suliman, Wyn G. W. Hughes and Bob Lindsay (Geotechnical Services Department, Saudi Aramco), who provided insight and expertise that greatly assisted the research. We thank Virginia Tech professors Kenneth A. Eriksson and Xiao Shuhai for their assistance with research methodology and for comments that greatly improved the manuscript. We also thank Raed Al-Dukhayyil and Khalaf Al-Temimi for their comments and review of an earlier version of the manuscript.

Funding

This research was funded and supported by Saudi Aramco. Funding of the shallow coring program came from the Reservoir Characterization and the Exploration departments at Saudi Aramco.

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Correspondence to Fawwaz Muhammad Alkhaldi.

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Responsible Editor: Zeynal Abiddin Erguler

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Alkhaldi, F.M., Read, J.F. & Al-Tawil, A.A. Mixed carbonate-siliciclastic sequence development influenced by astronomical forcing on a distal foreland, Miocene Dam Formation, eastern Saudi Arabia. Arab J Geosci 14, 285 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12517-021-06459-y

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Keywords

  • Mixed carbonate-siliciclastic
  • Sequence stratigraphy
  • Astronomical forcing
  • Distal foreland
  • Miocene
  • Dam Formation
  • Saudi Arabia