Permeability variation across an active low-angle detachment fault, western Woodlark Basin (ODP Leg 180), and its implication for fault activation
Published:January 01, 2001
Achim Kopf, 2001. "Permeability variation across an active low-angle detachment fault, western Woodlark Basin (ODP Leg 180), and its implication for fault activation", The Nature and Tectonic Significance of Fault Zone Weakening, R. E. Holdsworth, R. A. Strachan, J. F. Magloughlin, R. J. Knipe
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In the western Woodlark Basin, off Papua New Guinea, the variation from continental rifting to sea-floor spreading has profound effects on the mechanical response of the lithosphere. The extension is well expressed in a seismically active, shallow-dipping detachment fault. Recent Ocean Drilling Program drilling (ODP Leg 180) in the area obtained cores from the hanging wall, detachment fault gouge, and footwall, of which samples underwent permeability testing in the laboratory. Permeability variation was found to be critically dependent on (1) flow direction, i.e. fabric anisotropy of the rocks, and (2) deformational structures in the hanging wall to the fault. Regarding the first, a slight but distinct increase in permeability has been recorded parallel to the fabric (compared with flow normal to this, as indicated by anisotropy indices of Khorizontal/Kvertical of >1.7). This phenomenon appears most profound directly above fault zones in the hanging-wall block, which are interpreted to represent splays to the main detachment fault plane at depth. Here, shear-enhanced compaction seals fluid flow to the sea floor, so that conductive flow parallel to the fault plane is favoured (in general one order of magnitude higher). The fault gouge, mainly consisting of highly serpentinized basalt and chlorite, exhibits an increase in permeability relative to the clay- and siltstones of the hangingwall block. In the metamorphic basalt from the tectonic footwall, permeability decreases again by three orders of magnitude (k is c. 6e–17 to 5e–18m2). Consequently, the detachment and synthetic splays related to it are zones of enhanced fluid migration in the fault plane direction. Fluid overpressure, and hence fault activity, is suggested to be triggered by seal of the top of the fault zone, owing to both shear fabrics and cementation processes.
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The Nature and Tectonic Significance of Fault Zone Weakening
Many faults appears to form persistent zones of weakness that fundamentally influence the distribution, arichitecture and movement patterns of crustal-scale deformation and associated processes in both continental and oceanic regions. They act as conduits for the focused migration of economically important fluids and, as most seismicity is associated with active faults, they also constitute one of the most important global geological hazards.
This book brings together papers by an international group of Earth Scientists to discuss a broad range of topics centred upon the controls of fault weakening and the role of such faults during lithosphere deformation.
The book will be of interests to both academic and industrial Earth Scientists with an interest in geodynamics, structure at all scales, tectonics and the migration of petroleum and water.