Fracturing and fluid-flow during post-rift subsidence in carbonates of the Jandaíra Formation, Potiguar Basin, NE Brazil

Giovanni Bertotti*, Stefan de Graaf, Kevin Bisdom, Brigit Oskam, Hubert B. Vonhof, Francisco H. R. Bezerra, John J. G. Reijmer, Caroline L. Cazarin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)
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Pervasive fracture networks are common in many reservoir-scale carbonate bodies even in the absence of large deformation and exert a major impact on their mechanical and flow behaviour. The Upper Cretaceous Jandaíra Formation is a few hundred meters thick succession of shallow water carbonates deposited during the early post-rift stage of the Potiguar rift (NE Brazil). The Jandaíra Formation in the present onshore domain experienced <1.5 km thermal subsidence and, following Tertiary exhumation, forms outcrops over an area of >1000 km2. The carbonates have a gentle, <50, dip to the NE and are affected by few regional, low displacement faults or folds. Despite their simple tectonic history, carbonates display ubiquitous open fractures, sub-vertical veins, and sub-vertical as well as sub-horizontal stylolites. Combining structural analysis, drone imaging, isotope studies and mathematical modelling, we reconstruct the fracturing history of the Jandaíra Formation during and following subsidence and analyse the impact fractures had on coeval fluid flow. We find that Jandaíra carbonates, fully cemented after early diagenesis, experienced negligible deformation during the first few hundreds of meters of subsidence but were pervasively fractured when they reached depths >400-500 m. Deformation was accommodated by a dense network of sub-vertical mode I and hybrid fractures associated with sub-vertical stylolites developed in a stress field characterised by a sub-horizontal σ1 and sub-vertical σ2. The development of a network of hybrid fractures, rarely reported in the literature, activated the circulation of waters charged in the mountainous region, flowing along the porous Açu sandstone underlying the Jandaíra carbonates and rising to the surface through the fractured carbonates. With persisting subsidence, carbonates reached depths of 800-900 m entering a depth interval characterised by a sub-vertical σ1. At this stage, sub-horizontal stylolites developed liberating calcite which sealed the sub-vertical open fractures transforming them in veins and preventing further flow. During Tertiary exhumation, several of the pre-existing veins and stylolites opened and became longer, and new fractures were created typically with the same directions of the older features. The simplicity of our model suggests that most rocks in passive margin settings might have followed a similar evolution and thus display similar structures. Basin Research

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)836–853
Number of pages18
JournalBasin Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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