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Abstract

Major faults are surrounded by damage zones of minor faults that, in siliclastic rocks, can form barriers to flow in their own right. Reservoir flow simulation — now a routine part of reservoir management — requires equivalent hydraulic parameters on the scale of the whole fault, while reservoir geological models, from which flow simulator grids are generated, require information on the 3D characteristics of fault populations. Here, a stochastic model of fault damage zone architecture is generated and used to explore the impact of damage zone architecture on extrapolation from 1D (fault throw) and 2D (fault length) to 3D fault population characteristics. Sampling of the simulated damage zone models shows that clustering of faults causes deviations from simple laws relating particularly 1D samples to 3D population power-law exponents, with differences between expected and observed values of up to 0.25. The stochastic model is used to generate input for a 2D discrete fracture flow model for the case where minor (isotropic) fault permeability is four orders of magnitude lower than that of the host rock and, thus, forms partial barriers to flow. The flow model is used to explore the impact of fault damage zones on bulk fault permeability. The damage zone is shown to be around 50% efficient, i.e. a simple estimate of bulk permeability can be made using the harmonic average of fault rock and host-rock permeability weighted by thickness in 1D traverses (e.g. core, well logs), where only half the observed thickness of fault rock in the fault damage zone is assumed. Considering the contributions of the damage zone and the major slip zone, the fault damage zone is likely to make a significant contribution to the bulk permeability of the fault as a whole when the permeability of minor faults in the damage zone is similar to, or at most, one order of magnitude greater than that of the slip zone fault rocks.

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