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Pure and Applied Geophysics






Birkhauser Verlag AG

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We examine the fine-scale variations in mineralogical composition, geochemical alteration, and texture of the fault-related rocks from the Phase 3 whole-rock core sampled between 3,187.4 and 3,301.4 m measured depth within the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (SAFOD) borehole near Parkfield, California. This work provides insight into the physical and chemical properties, structural architecture, and fluid-rock interactions associated with the actively deforming traces of the San Andreas Fault zone at depth. Exhumed outcrops within the SAF system comprised of serpentinite-bearing protolith are examined for comparison at San Simeon, Goat Rock State Park, and Nelson Creek, California. In the Phase 3 SAFOD drillcore samples, the fault-related rocks consist of multiple juxtaposed lenses of sheared, foliated siltstone and shale with block-in-matrix fabric, black cataclasite to ultracataclasite, and sheared serpentinite-bearing, finely foliated fault gouge. Meters-wide zones of sheared rock and fault gouge correlate to the sites of active borehole casing deformation and are characterized by scaly clay fabric with multiple discrete slip surfaces or anastomosing shear zones that surround conglobulated or rounded clasts of compacted clay and/or serpentinite. The fine gouge matrix is composed of Mg-rich clays and serpentine minerals (saponite ± palygorskite, and lizardite ± chrysotile). Whole-rock geochemistry data show increases in Fe-, Mg-, Ni-, and Cr-oxides and hydroxides, Fe-sulfides, and C-rich material, with a total organic content of >1 % locally in the fault-related rocks. The faults sampled in the field are composed of meters-thick zones of cohesive to non-cohesive, serpentinite-bearing foliated clay gouge and black fine-grained fault rock derived from sheared Franciscan Formation or serpentinized Coast Range Ophiolite. X-ray diffraction of outcrop samples shows that the foliated clay gouge is composed primarily of saponite and serpentinite, with localized increases in Ni- and Cr-oxides and C-rich material over several meters. Mesoscopic and microscopic textures and deformation mechanisms interpreted from the outcrop sites are remarkably similar to those observed in the SAFOD core. Micro-scale to meso-scale fabrics observed in the SAFOD core exhibit textural characteristics that are common in deformed serpentinites and are often attributed to aseismic deformation with episodic seismic slip. The mineralogy and whole-rock geochemistry results indicate that the fault zone experienced transient fluid–rock interactions with fluids of varying chemical composition, including evidence for highly reducing, hydrocarbon-bearing fluids.

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