A block of sandstone retrieved by divers from near Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland, represents an aragonite cemented sand formed during the Quaternary. Strongly negative δ13C of the aragonite cement (−50 to −60‰ δ13C) indicates that the hardground was formed by the anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM), resulting in the formation of a methane-derived authigenic carbonate (MDAC) hardground. Such hardgrounds have previously been recorded as forming extensive pavements in deeper waters in the mid Irish Sea (e.g., Croker Carbonate Slabs), although the latter also contains high-magnesium calcite. Sand was initially deposited as part of a storm lag deposit, with a reworked bivalve and gastropod fauna. This sand was then colonised by a probable crustacean fauna, producing horizontal open dwelling burrows (Thalassinoides). After aragonite cementation, the hardground was colonised by boring bivalves, with slightly negatively elevated levels of δ13C. Finally, the hardground was colonised by an encrusting fauna (bryozoans, calcareous algae and serpulids), by then in warmer seas. Continued depleted levels of δ13C present within the encrusting fauna (−1 to −5‰ δ13C) indicate continued methane generation and seepage, which may still be active to the present day, and to the possibility of shallow gas reserves. The δ18O values change between macro-infauna vs. encrusters, indicating a warming in water temperature, reflecting glacial and post-glacial environments. The aragonite cemented sandstone has a highly variable porosity, with large vugs (open burrows and borings), smaller mouldic porosity within gastropods and bivalves and complex micro-porosity associated with acicular aragonite cements. Overall permeability was recorded at the 2.5 to 23 Darcies level, reflecting the highly variable vuggy porosity, although matrix permeability was around 100 mD and controlled by the MDAC fabric. Actual permeability will likely be controlled by the extent to which larger pores are interconnected. The sea around the Rathlin Island area contains a diverse fauna, which is worthy of future study in the context of cold seep and MDAC pavement formation.
- Cold seep
- δ O and δ C isotopes
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)