Criteria for recognition of localization and timing of multiple events of hydrothermal alteration in sandstones illustrated by petrographic, fluid inclusion, and isotopic analysis of the Tera Group, Northern Spain

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Stratigraphic relations, detailed petrography, microthermometry of fluid inclusions, and fine-scale isotopic analysis of diagenetic phases indicate a complex thermal history in Tithonian fluvial sandstones and lacustrine limestones of the Tera Group (North Spain). Two different thermal events have been recognized and characterized, which are likely associated with hydrothermal events that affected the Cameros Basin during the mid- Cretaceous and the Eocene. Multiple stages of quartz cementation were identified using scanning electron microscope cathodoluminescence on sandstones and fracture fills. Primary fluid inclusions reveal homogenization temperatures (Th) from 195 to 350 C in the quartz cements of extensional fracture fillings. The high variability of Th data in each particular fluid inclusion assemblage is related to natural reequilibration of the fluid inclusions, probably due to Cretaceous hydrothermal metamorphism. Some secondary fluid inclusion assemblages show very consistent data (Th = 281–305 C) and are considered not to have reequilibrated. They are likely related to an Eocene hydrothermal event or to a retrograde stage of the Cretaceous hydrothermalism. This approach shows how multiple thermal events can be discriminated. A very steep thermal gradient of 97–214 C/km can be deduced from d18O values of ferroan calcites (d18O -14.2/-11.8% V-PDB) that postdate quartz cements in fracture fillings. Furthermore, illite crystallinity data (anchizone–epizone boundary) are out of equilibrium with high fluid inclusion Th. These observations are consistent with heat-flux related to shortlived events of hydrothermal alteration focused by permeability contrasts, rather than to regional heat-flux associated with dynamo-thermal metamorphism. These results illustrate how thermal data from fracture systems can yield thermal histories markedly different from hostrock values, a finding indicative of hydrothermal fluid flow.
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