Depositional environment of Eocene oil shales of Wadi Shallala Formation from northern Jordan

Abstract

Oil shale deposits of the mid-Eocene Wadi Shallala Formation in northern Jordan consist of organic-rich limestones and chalks. These organic-rich deposits are exposed at the surface near Wadi Ash Shajara, in a 12-m-thick outcrop. For this study, a total of 21 oil shale samples were analysed for bulk elemental geochemistry, inorganic geochemistry, organic geochemistry and microfacies analysis. Three microfacies types were recognised: pelagic mudstone/wackestone, foraminiferal packstone and bioclastic packstone/wackestone. The observed cyclicity of these microfacies in the study area indicates fluctuations in depositional conditions in Neo-Tethys during the mid-Eocene. A shallow-water, calm, restricted marine environment with limited water circulation and low energy currents evolved into a deeper-water environment with open circulation at or just below the wave base. Wadi Shallala Formation in Wadi Ash Shajara composes mainly of chalk (CaCO3 = ~92 wt%) with a TOC of up to 5 wt % and comprises abundant calcareous nannofossils, foraminifera and ostracods as well as non-clastic components like calcitic fragments. The sulphur content of the analysed samples is significant (1.24 wt %) and is associated with the organic matter. Redox-sensitive elements (Fe, Ni, Zn, S and Zr) are enriched in the oil shale samples, indicating an anoxic depositional environment fluctuating between euxinic and sub-euxinic. These fluctuations in depositional conditions of the basin are a result of many factors such as climate, and tectonisms affected deposition of oil shales during Middle Eocene time.

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Acknowledgements

The authors of this article received financial support from Deanship of Scientific Research and Graduate Studies in Yarmouk University. All SEM photos are performed at the Central Research Science Laboratory of the American University of Beirut.

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Correspondence to Mohammad Alqudah.

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Responsible Editor: Santanu Banerjee

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Al-Tamimi, M.H., Alqudah, M., Al-Atawneh, M.S. et al. Depositional environment of Eocene oil shales of Wadi Shallala Formation from northern Jordan. Arab J Geosci 14, 209 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12517-021-06565-x

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Keywords

  • Oil shales
  • Bituminous chalk
  • Eocene
  • Palaeoenvironment
  • Microfacies
  • Redox-sensitive elements