Nature and origin of collapse breccias in the Zechstein of NE England: local observations with cross-border petroleum exploration and production significance, across the North Sea
Hydrocarbon reservoirs hosted in Permian strata were some of the first to have been discovered in Europe. With discoveries in the Zechstein carbonates of Norway in recent years, and with exploration of Zechstein prospects both onshore and offshore UK, as well as in Dutch, Danish and Norwegian offshore sectors, understanding the architecture of the Zechstein carbonates remains very relevant. Here we study outcrops of Roker Formation carbonates (Z2, Ca2) in NE England to better understand geological processes associated with deformation following evaporite dissolution, with implications for exploration and production.
Collapse of Z2 Roker Formation strata in NE England, following the dissolution of c. 100 m or more of the Z1 Hartlepool Anhydrite, resulted in fundamental changes to the architecture of the succession. Complete dissolution of the anhydrite removed an effective regional seal and dramatically enhanced matrix and fracture permeability of the overlying Roker Formation. The collapsed Roker Formation can be vertically divided into three zones, based upon the degree of deformation. The lower zone and vertical collapse-breccia pipes that can extend across all zones have the highest permeabilities. The process of collapse was gradual, with local variations in the degree of brecciation. We derive a schematic sequence of collapse, recognizing the impact of mechanical barriers within the succession in retarding deformation up-section and it is this that ultimately leads to the vertical zonation.
Timing of evaporite dissolution is poorly constrained: it could have occurred soon after deposition, at the end of the Permian or during Tertiary uplift. It is known that evaporite dissolution has occurred offshore, with the oil fields Auk and Argyll (UK Central North Sea) given as examples of dissolution collapse-brecciated reservoirs. Reservoir quality is typically improved, with both matrix and fracture porosity and permeability enhanced. Complete evaporite dissolution could in some cases lead to the potential breach of the seal.