Regional hardening of Upper Cretaceous Chalk in eastern England, UK: trace element and stable isotope patterns in the Upper Cenomanian and Turonian Chalk and their significance

Christopher V. Jeans, Dee Long, Xiu-Fang Hu, Rory N. Mortimore


The regional hardening of the Late Cenomanian to Early Turonian Chalk of the Northern Province of eastern England has been investigated by examining the pattern of trace elements and stable carbon and oxygen isotopes in the bulk calcite of two extensive and stratigraphically adjacent units each 4 to 5 m thick of hard chalk in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. These units are separated by a sequence, 0.3–1.3 m thick, of variegated marls and clayey marls. Modelling of the geochemistry of the hard chalk by comparison with the Standard Louth Chalk, combined with associated petrographic and geological evidence, indicates that (1) the hardening is due to the precipitation of a calcite cement, and (2) the regional and stratigraphical patterns of geochemical variation in the cement are largely independent of each other and have been maintained by the impermeable nature of the thin sequence of the clay-rich marls that separate them. Two phases of calcite cementation are recognised. The first phase was microbially influenced and did not lithify the chalk. It took place predominantly in oxic and suboxic conditions under considerable overpressure in which the Chalk pore fluids circulated within the units, driven by variations in compaction, temperature, pore fluid pressure and local tectonics. There is evidence in central and southern Lincolnshire of the loss of Sr and Mgenriched pore fluids to the south during an early part of this phase. The second phase of calcite precipitation was associated with the loss of overpressure in probably Late Cretaceous and in Cenozoic times as the result of fault movement in the basement penetrating the overlying Chalk and damaging the seal between the two chalk units. This greatly enhanced grain pressures, resulting in grain welding and pressure dissolution, causing lithification with the development of stylolites, marl seams, and brittle fractures. Associated with this loss of overpressure was the penetration of the chalk units by allochthonous fluids, rich in sulphate and hydrocarbons, derived probably from the North Sea Basin. Microbial sulphate-reduction under anoxic conditions within these allochthonous fluids has been responsible for dissolving the fine-grained iron and manganese oxides within the chalk, locally enriching the Fe and Mn content of the calcite cement. The possibility is discussed that the pattern of cementation preserved in these regionally hard chalks of Late Cenomanian and Early Turonian age may be different from that preserved in the younger (late Turonian to Campanian) more basinal chalks of eastern England.


Chalk hardening; Trace elements; Stable isotopes; Cement modelling; Reservoir diagenesis; History

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