Abstract

Sandstone rheology and deformation style are often controlled by the extent of quartz cementation, which is a function of temperature history. Coupling findings from deformation experiments with a model for quartz cementation provide valuable insights into the controls on fault permeability. Subsiding sedimentary basins often have a transitional depth zone, here referred to as the ductile-to-brittle transition, above which faults do not affect fluid flow or form barriers and below which faults will tend to form conduits. The depth of this transition is partly dependent upon geothermal gradient. In basins with a high geothermal gradient, fault-related conduits can form at shallow depths in high-porosity sandstone. If geothermal gradients are low, and fluid pressures are hydrostatic, fault-related conduits are only formed when the sandstones have subsided much deeper, where their porosity (and hence fluid content) is low. Mineralization of faults is more likely to occur in areas with high geothermal gradients because the rocks still have a high fluid content when fault-related fluid-flow conduits form. The interrelationship between rock rheology and stress conditions is sometimes a more important control on fault permeability than whether the fault is active or inactive.

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