International Journal of Earth Sciences

, Volume 93, Issue 1, pp 92–106 | Cite as

Coalification history of the Stephanian Ciñera-Matallana pull-apart basin, NW Spain: Combining anisotropy of vitrinite reflectance and thermal modelling

  • Kai FringsEmail author
  • Rüdiger Lutz
  • Helga de Wall
  • Laurence N. Warr
Original Paper


The Stephanian Ciñera-Matallana Basin of NW Spain comprises 1,500 m of alluvial to lacustrine coal-bearing sediments, which were deposited in a late Variscan transtensional/transpressional pull-apart setting. The relationship between coalification pattern and rock deformation was evaluated by measurements of the anisotropy of vitrinite reflectance (AVR). The AVR ellipsoids reveal both pre-tectonic elements related to the bedding fabric and syn-tectonic elements related to folding, producing biaxial ellipsoid shapes with the maximum reflectance parallel to fold axes. The mean coalification gradient for the Stephanian succession is about 0.62 %Rr/km. Calculations of the mean palaeo-geothermal gradient are presented on the basis of three different empirical equations. A palaeo-geothermal gradient of 85 °C/km is considered the most realistic, with an overburden of about 1,000 m. 1-D numerical modelling of the burial history results in two possible scenarios, the most preferable involving a palaeo-heat flow of 150 mW/m2 and an overburden of ca. 1,050 m. These results indicate that maximum coalification was related to a localised but high palaeo-heat flow/-geothermal gradient. The anisotropy of vitrinite reflectance highlights the interactive and transitional nature of sedimentary compaction and rock deformation on the maturation of organic material within strike-slip fault zones.


Ciñera-Matallana Coalification Palaeo-geothermal gradient Palaeo-heat flow Anisotropy of vitrinite reflectance 



This work was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG-grant WA 10/10 2–1 and 2–2) and forms part of the doctoral thesis of the principal author. S.A. Hullera Vasco-Leonesa (Spain) is thanked for the permission to visit the open pit at Santa Lucia and the underground mine of Tabliza. O. Wallerath (Heidelberg) is thanked for preparing and polishing the very difficult material. R. Littke (Aachen, Germany) is thanked for kindly allowing us to measure some samples at the Lehrstuhl für Geologie, Geochemie und Lagerstätten des Erdöls und der Kohle in Aachen. Detailed reviews of an earlier version of the manuscript by W. Kalkreuth (Porto Alegre, Brasil) and R. Littke improved the quality of the text and are gratefully acknowledged. W. Langenberg (Edmonton, Canada) is thanked for permission to use his AVR calculation program. The constructive reviews of R. Gayer and J. Hower are also gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kai Frings
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rüdiger Lutz
    • 2
  • Helga de Wall
    • 3
  • Laurence N. Warr
    • 1
  1. 1.Geologisch-Paläontologisches InstitutRuprecht-Karls-UniversitätHeidelbergGermany
  2. 2.Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe BGRStilleweg 2HannoverGermany
  3. 3.Institut für GeologieBayerische Julius-Maximilians UniversitätWürzburgGermany

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