ABSTRACT

Faults are important components of hydrocarbon and other reservoirs; they can affect trapping of fluids, flow pathways, compartmentalization, production rates, and through these, production strategies and economic outcomes. Displacement gradients on faults are associated with off-fault deformation, which can be manifest as faulting, extension fracturing, or folding. In this work, displacement gradients—both in the slip direction and laterally—on a well-exposed large-displacement (seismic-scale) normal fault within the Balcones fault system of south-central Texas are correlated with anomalous deformation patterns adjacent to the fault. This anomalous deformation consists of two superimposed small-displacement fault systems, including (1) an earlier set that formed in response to a displacement gradient in the slip direction, and (2) a later set of oblique faults that formed in a perturbed stress-and-strain field in response to a lateral displacement gradient on the fault. Bed dip, fault-cutoff relationships, and small-displacement fault patterns in the adjacent rock volume inform strain and paleostress estimates. Results indicate that seismically resolvable displacement gradients on and bed dips adjacent to the seismic-scale fault provide a means by which the smaller (subseismic-scale and off-fault) deformation features can be predicted both in terms of orientation and intensity. Specifically, lateral displacement gradients on a normal fault with dip-slip displacement will generate fault-strike-parallel extension, causing anomalously oriented (in the far-field stress context) deformation features adjacent to the fault. Displacement gradient analysis can be used to help predict the characteristics of subseismic-scale deformation within a reservoir adjacent to a seismic-scale normal fault.

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