Organic petrology and geochemistry of mudstones from the lower Shahejie Formation in the Tanggu area of eastern China: evidence for the presence of an ancient saline lake



Mudstones in the Sha-3 member of the Shahejie Formation, in the Tanggu area of the Huanghua Depression, have been found to contain analcime and ankerite. Hydrothermal sedimentation has been invoked to explain the origin of these two minerals, raising the question of whether hydrothermal activity occurred at a sufficient scale to significantly raise the salinity of the depositional environment. We applied a suite of organic petrological and geochemical methods to directly address this question. Maceral composition, kerogen type, and the distribution of n-alkanes, hopanes, and steranes indicate that the organic matter contained in these mudstones and dolomitic mudstones is mainly derived from algae and bacteria. The dominant acritarch genera, C31R/C30 hopane ratio, gammacerane index, Pr/Ph ratio, and the relationship between Pr/n-C17 and Ph/n-C18 suggest that the mudstones and dolomitic mudstones were deposited in an anoxic, saline lacustrine environment. Tmax, biomarker maturity indices, the Thermal Alteration Index (TAI) and Acritarch Alteration Index (AAI), and vitrinite reflectance all indicate that the organic matter is at an immature to early mature stage. The estimated maximum paleotemperature is close to the present-day burial temperature, and much lower than the homogenization temperature of the analcime veins in dolostones. Combined with the absence of unresolved complex mixtures on the n-alkane pattern, this suggests that hydrothermal activity had a negligible impact on the salinity and alkalinity of the depositional lake.


N-alkanes; Burial temperature; Organic matter; Salinity; Hydrothermal activity; Stratification

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Geologica Acta (ISSN-1695-6133)
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