Imaging tectonic faults with small vertical offsets in argillites (clay rock) using geophysical methods is challenging. In the context of deep radioactive waste disposals, the presence of such faults has to be assessed because they can modify the rock-confining properties. In the Tournemire Experimental Platform (TEP, Aveyron, France), fault zones with small vertical offsets and complex shape have been identified from underground works. However, 3D high-resolution surface seismic methods have limitations in this context that led us to consider the detection and characterization of the faults directly from underground works. We investigated the potential of seismic full-waveform inversion (FWI) applied in a transmission configuration to image the clay rock medium in a horizontal plane between galleries and compared it with first-arrival traveltime tomography (FATT). Our objective was to characterize seismic velocities of a block of argillites crossed by a subvertical fault zone with a small vertical offset. The specific measurement configuration allowed us to neglect the influence of the galleries on the wave propagation and to simplify the problem by considering a 2D isotropic horizontal imaging domain. Our FWI scheme relied on a robust adaptation of early arrival waveform tomography. The results obtained with FATT and FWI were in accordance, and both correlated with the geologic observations from the gallery walls and boreholes. We found that even though various simplifications was done in the inversion scheme and only a part of the data was used, FWI allowed us to get higher resolution images than FATT, and it was especially less sensitive to the incomplete illumination because it also used diffracted energy. Our results highlighted the complexity of the fault zone, showing a complex interaction of the main fault system with a secondary system composed of decimetric fractures associated with the presence of water.

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