Our field study examines two sites revealing the processes responsible for fault surface development and fault rock juxtaposition along normal faults in porous-sandstone–dominated formations. At the first site, we show that a cluster of cataclastic deformation bands made in an initially poorly consolidated sandstone localizes overprinting of a fault slip surface and brecciation during a subsequent tectonic episode, after a significant diagenesis of the formation induced by burial. Because the permeability of the clusters ranges between 6 × 100 and less than 5 × 10−1 md and because the breccia was highly dilatant, we deduce that the fault behaved as a baffle for cross-fault fluid flow at an early age of the formation and as a conduit after significant diagenetic evolution and subsequent fault surface development. At the second site, we show that the presence of clay-rich layers as thin as 80 cm (31 in.) are responsible for the initiation of a major fault slip surface in the underlying and overlying sandstone. The propagation of the fault prevents further cataclastic deformation and cluster development in these sandstones. Fault displacement juxtaposes fault surfaces, clusters of cataclastic deformation bands, clay-rich gouges, and different sedimentary units. Because both fault rocks have low permeability, their spatial juxtaposition provides a continuous baffle for cross-fault fluid flow. Our study shows that fault surface localization is related to an increase in the contrast of mechanical behavior between the cluster and the adjacent material (diagenetic hardening of the cluster or softening of the clay-rich gouge). Lithological contrasts and diagenesis are favorable conditions for localizing faulting and fault rock juxtaposition, allowing significant three-dimensional anisotropy of permeability during and/or after deformation. These processes must, therefore, be considered for fault-seal analyses in sandstone reservoirs.

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