The large-scale equivalent permeabilities of strike-slip faults in porous sandstone are computed from detailed field measurements. The faults, which occur in the Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada, were previously characterized, and the flow properties of their individual features were estimated. The faults formed from the shearing of joint zones and are composed of a core of fine-grain fault rock (gouge) and deformation bands and a peripheral damage zone of joints and sheared joints. High-resolution fault-zone maps and permeability data, estimated using image analysis calibrated to actual measurements, are incorporated into detailed finite difference numerical calculations to determine the permeability of regions of the fault zone.
Faults with slips of magnitude 6, 14, and 150 m are considered. The computed fault-zone permeabilities are strongly anisotropic in all cases. Permeability enhancement of nearly 1 order of magnitude (relative to the host rock) is observed for the fault-parallel component in some regions. Fault-normal permeability, by contrast, may be 2 orders of magnitude less than the host rock permeability. The fault-normal permeability is a minimum for the fault with the highest slip. For a representative fault region, the fault-parallel component of permeability is highly sensitive to the fracture aperture, although the fault-normal permeability is insensitive. The procedures developed and applied in this article can be used for any type of fault for which detailed structural and permeability data are available or can be estimated.