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Abstract:

The growth of normal faults in mechanically layered sequences is numerically modelled using three-dimensional Distinct Element Method (DEM) models, in which rock comprises an assemblage of bonded spherical particles. Faulting is induced by movement on a pre-defined normal fault at the model base whilst a constant confining pressure is maintained by applying forces to particles lying at the model top. The structure of the modelled fault zones and its dependency on confining pressure, sequence (net:gross) and fault obliquity are assessed using various new techniques that allow (a) visualization of faulted horizons, (b) quantification of throw partitioning and (c) determination of the fault zone throw beyond which theoretical juxtaposition sealing occurs along the entire zone length. The results indicate that fault zones become better localized with increasing throw and confinement. The mechanical stratigraphy has a profound impact on fault zone structure and localization: both low and high net:gross sequences lead to wide and relatively poorly localized faults. Fault strands developing above oblique-slip normal faults form, on average, normal to the greatest infinitesimal stretching direction in transtensional zones. The model results are consistent with field observations and results from physical experiments.

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