Feasibility of estimating cementation rates in a brittle fault zone using Sr/Ca partition coefficients for sedimentary diagenesis
Cement phases such as calcite or quartz often incorporate trace elements from the parent fluids as they crystallize. Experimental sedimentary diagenesis indicates that trace element partition coefficients reflect rates of cementation. The applicability of these findings to fault zone cementation is examined as we make a preliminary attempt to estimate calcite cementation rate in a brittle fault zone directly from the fault-rock composition data. Samples for this study were collected from the Knoxville outcrop of the Saltville fault in Tennessee. The cementation rates for the fault rock samples range from 1×10 -12 to 3×10 -13 m3/ h per m, in agreement with some experimental rates and the rates reported for samples from the DSDP sites. When applied to a non-responsive pore-system model, these rates result in rapid precipitation sealing indicating the influence exerted by the surface-area/volume ratio of the pore network. We find it feasible to obtain a reasonable range of values for the cementation rate using the trace element partition method. However, the study also indicates the need for relatively accurate values for the trace/carrier element ratio in the fault zone syntectonic pore fluid, and exhumed cement.