Microstructural and diagenetic analyses of the North Scapa Sandstone in the hanging wall of the North Scapa fault, Orkney, Scotland, provide insight into the relationship between faulting and fluid flow during basin development. The results demonstrate the influence of this relationship on fault sealing processes and hydrocarbon migration.

During development of the Orcadian basin in the Middle Devonian, the fault moved in an extensional sense. Dilatancy associated with cataclastic deformation caused localization of fluid flow and resulted in the precipitation of quartz and illite cement in the North Scapa Sandstone up to 1 m from the fault plane. This diagenetic event, coupled with cataclastic grain-size reduction, significantly reduced the porosity and permeability of the sandstone directly adjacent to the fault. These processes are effective sealing mechanisms within the sandstone.

Lacustrine source rocks in the Orcadian basin reached maturation during the latest Devonian to middle Carboniferous. At the end of this time, the basin was uplifted, and the North Scapa fault was reactivated in a normal, but dominantly oblique-slip sense. This later deformation was accommodated directly outside the sealed zone and resulted in the development of broad (10-20 cm) breccia zones and narrow (<10 cm) cataclastic bands. Further dilatancy associated with the cataclastic deformation channelized hydrocarbon flow through the high-strain breccia zones and cataclastic bands. These observations indicate that fault activity that is broadly coincident with maturation and expulsion of hydrocarbons within a basin can directly influence the location of migration pathways.

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