A Fine Detail Physicochemical Depositional Model for Devonian Organic-Rich Mudstones: A Petrographic Study of the Hare Indian and Canol Formations, Central Mackenzie Valley, Northwest Territories

  • Author / Creator
    Biddle, Sara
  • The Hare Indian and Canol Formations, making up part of the Horn River Group in the Northwest Territories, primarily consist of organic-rich mudstones deposited during the Middle to Late Devonian. The formations were previously considered to represent marine basin fill accumulated in an oxygen-starved distal shelf setting, evidenced by the organic-rich character, pyrite content, and lack of macro-scale bioturbation. The depositional model, paleo-oxygenation interpretations, and methods of organic carbon preservation presented in this study are in contrast to previous assumptions of the Horn River Group mudstones. The results of this study may be applied to evaluations of other organic rich mudstones to enhance paleo-depositional interpretations. Detailed petrographic, sedimentological, and ichnological analyses were carried out on thin sections taken from several cored Horn River Group intervals. These organic-rich mudstone units contain eight distinct microfacies, representing four main sedimentation processes acting on an interpreted distal shelf setting: (1) pelagic suspension settling, (2) plug-like sediment-gravity flows, (3) surge and surge-like low-density turbidity currents, and (4) debrites. Pelagic suspension-settling dominated in distal, quiet waters out of the reach of persistent storm influence. Debrites, plug-like flows, and low-density turbidite processes represent a continuum, wherein storm influence was the dominant driver in sediment delivery. Several morphologically distinct, microscopic biogenic-sedimentary structures (i.e. ichnofossils) have been identified throughout the mudstone intervals, indicative of sediment pore waters that were at least periodically partially oxygenated. Evaluation of total organic carbon content against bioturbation and microfacies interpretation suggest that persistent anoxia was not the dominant factor in organic carbon preservation, but rather a result of a combination of heightened sedimentation and burial rates and possible amplified rates of primary productivity.

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  • Graduation date
    Fall 2020
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
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