Quantitative analysis of stylolite networks in different platform carbonate facies

Elliot Humphrey*, Enrique Gomez Rivas, Joyce Neilson, Juan Diego Martín-Martín, David Healy, Shuqing Yao, Paul D. Bons

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
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Stylolites are rough surfaces that form by pressure solution, and present variable geometries and spatial distributions. Despite being ubiquitous in carbonate rocks and potentially influencing fluid flow, it is not yet clear how the type and distribution of stylolite networks relate to lithofacies. This study investigates Lower Cretaceous platform carbonates in the Benicàssim area (Maestrat Basin, Spain) to statistically characterize stylolite morphology and stylolite network distributions in a selection of typical shallow-marine carbonate lithofacies, from mudstones to grainstones. Bedding-parallel stylolite networks were sampled in the field to quantify stylolite spacing, wavelength, amplitude, intersection morphology and connectivity. Grain size, sorting and composition were found to be the key lithological variables responsible for the development of rough anastomosing stylolite networks. Poorly-connected stylolites with large vertical spacings were found to be dominant in grain-supported lithofacies, where grains are fine and well sorted. Anastomosing stylolite networks appear well developed in mud-supported lithofacies with poorly-sorted clasts that are both heterogenous in size and composition. Mud-supported facies feature stylolites that are closely spaced, have high amplitudes and intersection densities, and predominantly present suture and sharp-peak type morphologies. Larger grains and poor sorting favour the formation of stylolites with small vertical spacings, low wavelengths and high amplitudes. This statistical analysis approach requires only limited information, such as that from drill core, and can be used to characterise stylolite morphology and distributions in subsurface carbonate reservoirs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104203
Number of pages20
JournalMarine and Petroleum Geology
Early online date24 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

This research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Oil & Gas, through a PhD grant to EH. Additional funding was provided by the Grup Consolidat de Recerca “Geologia Sedimentària” (2017SGR-824) and the DGICYT Spanish Projects CGL2015-66335-C2-1-R, CGL2015-69805-P and PGC2018-093903-B-C22. EGR acknowledges the support of the Beatriu de Pinós programme of the Government of Catalonia's Secretariat for Universities and Research of the Department of Economy and Knowledge (2016 BP 00208). We are grateful to anonymous reviewers, whose constructive comments have improved the article, together with the editorial guidance of Miroslaw Slowakiewicz.


  • Stylolite
  • Carbonate
  • Diagenesis
  • Lithofacies
  • Mechanical stratigraphy
  • Maestrat Basin
  • Maestrat basin


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