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Durham University

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Sagi, D.A., De Paola, N., McCaffrey, K.J.W. & Holdsworth, R.E. (2016). Fault and fracture patterns in low porosity chalk and their potential influence on sub-surface fluid flow—A case study from Flamborough Head, UK. Tectonophysics 690(A): 35-51.

Author(s) from Durham


To better understand fault zone architecture and fluid flow in mesoscale fault zones, we studied normal faults in chalks with displacements up to 20 m, at two representative localities in Flamborough Head (UK). At the first locality, chalk contains cm-thick, interlayered marl horizons, whereas at the second locality marl horizons were largely absent. Cm-scale displacement faults at both localities display ramp-flat geometries. Mesoscale fault patterns in the marl-free chalk, including a larger displacement fault (20 m) containing multiple fault strands, show widespread evidence of hydraulically-brecciated rocks, whereas clays smears along fault planes, and injected into open fractures, and a simpler fault zone architecture is observed where marl horizons are present. Hydraulic brecciation and veins observed in the marl-free chalk units suggest that mesoscale fault patterns acted as localized fault conduit allowing for widespread fluid flow. On the other hand, mesoscale fault patterns developed in highly fractured chalk, which contains interlayered marl horizons can act as localized barriers to fluid flow, due to the sealing effect of clays smears along fault planes and introduced into open fractures in the damage zone.

To support our field observations, quantitative analyses carried out on the large faults suggest a simple fault zone in the chalk with marl units with fracture density/connectivity decreasing towards the protolith. Where marls are absent, density is high throughout the fault zone, while connectivity is high only in domains nearest the fault core.

We suggest that fluid flow in fractured chalk is especially influenced by the presence of marls. When present, it can smear onto fault planes, forming localised barriers. Fluid flow along relatively large displacement faults is additionally controlled by the complexity of the fault zone, especially the size/geometry of weakly and intensely connected damage zone domains.