Siltstone, also known as aleurolite,[1] is a clastic sedimentary rock that is composed mostly of silt. It is a form of mudrock with a low clay mineral content, which can be distinguished from shale by its lack of fissility.[2]

Sedimentary rock

Although its permeability and porosity is relatively low, siltstone is sometimes a tight gas reservoir rock,[3][4] an unconventional reservoir for natural gas that requires hydraulic fracturing for economic gas production.[5]

Siltstone was prized in ancient Egypt for manufacturing statuary and cosmetic palettes. The siltstone quarried at Wadi Hammamat was a hard, fine-grained siltstone that resisted flaking and was almost ideal for such uses.[6]


Holtzclaw siltstone, Louisville, Kentucky

There is not complete agreement on the definition of siltstone. One definition is that siltstone is mudrock (clastic sedimentary rock containing at least 50% clay and silt) in which at least 2/3 of the clay and silt fraction is composed of silt-sized particles. Silt is defined as grains 2–62 μm in diameter, or 4 to 8 on the Krumbein phi (φ) scale.[7] An alternate definition is that siltstone is any sedimentary rock containing 50% or more of silt-sized particles.[8] Siltstones can be distinguished from claystone in the field by chewing a small sample; claystone feels smooth while siltstone feels gritty.[2]

Siltstones differ significantly from sandstones due to their smaller pores and a higher propensity for containing a significant clay fraction. Although often mistaken for a shale, siltstone lacks the laminations and fissility along horizontal lines which are typical of shale.[2] Siltstones may contain concretions.[9][10] Unless the siltstone is fairly shaly, stratification is likely to be obscure and it tends to weather at oblique angles unrelated to bedding.



Siltstone is an unusual rock, in which most of the silt grains are made of quartz.[11] The origin of quartz silt has been a topic of much research and debate.[12][13] Some quartz silt likely has its origin in fine-grained foliated metamorphic rock,[14] while much marine silt is likely biogenic,[15][16] but most quartz sediments come from granitic rocks in which quartz grains are much larger than quartz silt.[17] Highly energetic processes are required to break these grains down to silt size.[18] Among proposed mechanism are glacial grinding;[19][20] weathering in cold, tectonically active mountain ranges;[18] normal weathering, particularly in tropical regions;[11][21][22] and formation in hot desert environments by salt weathering.[23]

Siltstones form in relatively quiet depositional environments where fine particles can settle out of the transporting medium (air or water) and accumulate on the surface.[24] They are found in turbidite sequences,[25] in deltas,[26] in glacial deposits,[27] and in miogeosynclinal settings.[28]

Locations with siltstone donation



  1. ^ Gyöngyi Farkas Characterization of subterranean bacteria in the Hungarian Upper Permian Siltstone (Aleurolite) Formation Canadian Journal of Microbiology 46(6):559-64
  2. ^ a b c Blatt, Middleton & Murray 1980, pp. 381–382.
  3. ^ Clarkson, Christopher R.; Jensen, Jerry L.; Pedersen, Per Kent; Freeman, Melissa (February 2012). "Innovative methods for flow-unit and pore-structure analyses in a tight siltstone and shale gas reservoir". AAPG Bulletin. 96 (2): 355–374. Bibcode:2012BAAPG..96..355C. doi:10.1306/05181110171.
  4. ^ Cao, Zhe; Liu, Guangdi; Zhan, Hongbin; Gao, Jin; Zhang, Jingya; Li, Chaozheng; Xiang, Baoli (May 2017). "Geological roles of the siltstones in tight oil play". Marine and Petroleum Geology. 83: 333–344. Bibcode:2017MarPG..83..333C. doi:10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2017.02.020.
  5. ^ Ben E. Law and Charles W. Spencer, 1993, "Gas in tight reservoirs-an emerging major source of energy", in David G. Howell (ed.), The Future of Energy Gasses, US Geological Survey, Professional Paper 1570, p.233-252.
  6. ^ Shaw, Ian (2004). Ancient Egypt : a very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 44–45. ISBN 0192854194. Retrieved 2 October 2020.
  7. ^ Folk, R.L. (1980). Petrology of sedimentary rocks (2nd ed.). Austin: Hemphill's Bookstore. p. 145. ISBN 0-914696-14-9. Archived from the original on 2006-02-14. Retrieved 2 October 2020.
  8. ^ Picard, M. Dane (1971). "Classification of Fine-grained Sedimentary Rocks". SEPM Journal of Sedimentary Research. 41. doi:10.1306/74D7221B-2B21-11D7-8648000102C1865D.
  9. ^ Melezhik, Victor A.; Fallick, Anthony E.; Smith, Richard A.; Rosse, Danta M. (December 2007). "Spherical and columnar, septarian, 18 O-depleted, calcite concretions from Middle–Upper Permian lacustrine siltstones in northern Mozambique: evidence for very early diagenesis and multiple fluids". Sedimentology. 54 (6): 1389–1416. Bibcode:2007Sedim..54.1389M. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3091.2007.00886.x. S2CID 129030770.
  10. ^ Middleton, Heather A.; Nelson, Campbell S. (May 1996). "Origin and timing of siderite and calcite concretions in late Palaeogene non- to marginal-marine facies of the Te Kuiti Group, New Zealand". Sedimentary Geology. 103 (1–2): 93–115. Bibcode:1996SedG..103...93M. doi:10.1016/0037-0738(95)00092-5.
  11. ^ a b Nahon, D.; Trompette, R. (February 1982). "Origin of siltstones: glacial grinding versus weathering". Sedimentology. 29 (1): 25–35. Bibcode:1982Sedim..29...25N. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3091.1982.tb01706.x.
  12. ^ Nemecz, Ernö; Pécsi, Márton; Hartyáni, Zsuzsa; Horváth, Timea (June 2000). "The origin of the silt size quartz grains and minerals in loess". Quaternary International. 68–71 (1): 199–208. Bibcode:2000QuInt..68..199N. doi:10.1016/S1040-6182(00)00044-6.
  13. ^ Smalley, Ian (January 1990). "Possible formation mechanisms for the modal coarse-silt quartz particles in loess deposits". Quaternary International. 7–8: 23–27. Bibcode:1990QuInt...7...23S. doi:10.1016/1040-6182(90)90035-3.
  14. ^ Blatt, Middleton & Murray 1980, p. 284.
  15. ^ Leeder, M. R. (2011). Sedimentology and sedimentary basins : from turbulence to tectonics (2nd ed.). Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 9781405177832.
  16. ^ Schieber, Jürgen; Krinsley, Dave; Riciputi, Lee (August 2000). "Diagenetic origin of quartz silt in mudstones and implications for silica cycling". Nature. 406 (6799): 981–985. doi:10.1038/35023143. PMID 10984049. S2CID 4417951.
  17. ^ Potter, Paul Edwin; Maynard, James; Pryor, Wayne A. (1980). Sedimentology of shale : study guide and reference source. New York: Springer-Verlag. ISBN 0387904301.
  18. ^ a b Assallay, A (November 1998). "Silt: 2–62 μm, 9–4φ". Earth-Science Reviews. 45 (1–2): 61–88. Bibcode:1998ESRv...45...61A. doi:10.1016/S0012-8252(98)00035-X.
  19. ^ Kuenen, P. H. (1 December 1969). "Origin of quartz silt". Journal of Sedimentary Research. 39 (4): 1631–1633. Bibcode:1969JSedR..39.1631K. doi:10.1306/74D71ED3-2B21-11D7-8648000102C1865D.
  20. ^ Riezebos, P.A.; Van der Waals, L. (December 1974). "Silt-sized quartz particles: a proposed source". Sedimentary Geology. 12 (4): 279–285. Bibcode:1974SedG...12..279R. doi:10.1016/0037-0738(74)90022-0.
  21. ^ Iriondo, Martı́n (December 1999). "The origin of silt particles in the loess question". Quaternary International. 62 (1): 3–9. Bibcode:1999QuInt..62....3I. doi:10.1016/S1040-6182(99)00018-X.
  22. ^ Pye, Kenneth (April 1983). "Formation of quartz silt during humid tropical weathering of dune sands". Sedimentary Geology. 34 (4): 267–282. Bibcode:1983SedG...34..267P. doi:10.1016/0037-0738(83)90050-7.
  23. ^ Goudie, A.S.; Cooke, R.U.; Doornkamp, J.C. (June 1979). "The formation of silt from quartz dune sand by salt-weathering processes in deserts". Journal of Arid Environments. 2 (2): 105–112. Bibcode:1979JArEn...2..105G. doi:10.1016/S0140-1963(18)31786-5.
  24. ^ Lillie, Robert J. (2005). Parks and plates : the geology of our national parks, monuments, and seashores (1st ed.). New York: W.W. Norton. ISBN 0393924076.
  25. ^ Jaworowski, K. (2013). Facies analysis of the Silurian shale-siltstone succession in Pomerania (northern Poland). Geological Quarterly, 44(3), 297-315. Retrieved from
  26. ^ Lineback, Jerry Alvin. "Deep-water sediments adjacent to the Borden Siltstone (Mississippian) delta in southern Illinois." Circular no. 401 (1966).
  27. ^ Thomas, S. G.; Fielding, C. R.; Frank, T. D. (December 2007). "Lithostratigraphy of the late Early Permian (Kungurian) Wandrawandian Siltstone, New South Wales: record of glaciation?". Australian Journal of Earth Sciences. 54 (8): 1057–1071. Bibcode:2007AuJES..54.1057T. doi:10.1080/08120090701615717. S2CID 46570542.
  28. ^ Ethridge, F.G. (1977). "Petrology, Transport, and Environment in Isochronous Upper Devonian Sandstone and Siltstone Units, New York". SEPM Journal of Sedimentary Research. 47. doi:10.1306/212F70EF-2B24-11D7-8648000102C1865D.


  • Blatt, Harvey; Middleton, Gerard; Murray, Raymond (1980). Origin of sedimentary rocks (2d ed.). Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0136427103.
  • Williams, Howel, Francis J. Turner and Charles M. Gilbert, 1954, Petrography, W. H. Freeman