Structural Heterogeneity and Permeability in Faulted Eolian Sandstone: Implications for Subsurface Modeling of Faults

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American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin






American Association of Petroleum Geologists

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We determined the structure and permeability variations of a 4 km-long normal fault by integrating surface mapping with data from five boreholes drilled through the fault (borehole to tens of meters scale). The Big Hole fault outcrops in the Jurassic Navajo Sandstone, central Utah. A total of 363.2 m of oriented drill core was recovered at two sites where fault displacement is 8 and 3-5 m. The main fault core is a narrow zone of intensely comminuted grains that is a maximum of 30 cm thick and is composed of low-porosity amalgamated deformation bands that have slip surfaces on one or both sides. Probe permeameter measurements showed a permeability decline from greater than 2000 to less than 0.1 md as the fault is approached. Whole-core analyses showed that fault core permeability is less than 1 md and individual deformation band permeability is about 1 md. Using these data, we calculated the bulk permeability of the fault zone. Calculated transverse permeability over length scales of 5-10 m is 30-40 md, approximately 1-4% the value of the host rock. An inverse power mean calculation (representing a fault array with complex geometry) yielded total fault-zone permeabilities of 7-57 md. The bulk fault-zone permeability is most sensitive to variations in fault core thickness, which exhibits the greatest variability of the fault components.