Fault fictions: systematic biases in the conceptualization of fault-zone architecture
Published:July 17, 2020
Z. K. Shipton, J. J. Roberts, E. L. Comrie, Y. Kremer, R. J. Lunn, J. S. Caine, 2020. "Fault fictions: systematic biases in the conceptualization of fault-zone architecture", Integrated Fault Seal Analysis, S. R. Ogilvie, S. J. Dee, R. W. Wilson, W. R. Bailey
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Mental models are a human's internal representation of the real world and have an important role in the way we understand and reason about uncertainties, explore potential options and make decisions. Mental models have not yet received much attention in geosciences, yet systematic biases can affect any geological investigation: from how the problem is conceived, through selection of appropriate hypotheses and data collection/processing methods, to the conceptualization and communication of results. We draw on findings from cognitive science and system dynamics, with knowledge and experiences of field geology, to consider the limitations and biases presented by mental models in geoscience, and their effect on predictions of the physical properties of faults in particular. We highlight biases specific to geological investigations and propose strategies for debiasing. Doing so will enhance how multiple data sources can be brought together, and minimize controllable geological uncertainty to develop more robust geological models. Critically, there is a need for standardized procedures that guard against biases, permitting data from multiple studies to be combined and communication of assumptions to be made. While we use faults to illustrate potential biases in mental models and the implications of these biases, our findings can be applied across the geosciences.
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Integrated Fault Seal Analysis
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Faults commonly trap fluids such as hydrocarbons and water and therefore are of economic significance. During hydrocarbon field development, smaller faults can provide baffles and/or conduits to flow. There are relatively simple, well established workflows to carry out a fault seal analysis for siliciclastic rocks based primarily on clay content. There are, however, outstanding challenges related to other rock types, to calibrating fault seal models (with static and dynamic data) and to handling uncertainty.
The variety of studies presented here demonstrate the types of data required and workflows followed in today's environment in order to understand the uncertainties, risks and upsides associated with fault-related fluid flow. These studies span all parts of the hydrocarbon value chain from exploration to production but are also of relevance for other industries such as radioactive waste and CO2 containment.