Permeability evolution across carbonate hosted normal fault zones

Thomas J. Haines, Emma A. H. Michie, Joyce E. Neilson, David Healy

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44 Citations (Scopus)
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Carbonate lithologies tend to have highly heterogeneous and tortuous pore systems that are created and/or modified by diagenetic and tectonic processes following deposition. The correlation between porosity and permeability in carbonate lithologies is often poor as a result of their heterogeneous and complex pore systems. To effectively predict permeability, it is necessary to understand the processes that modify pore systems and quantify the impact of these modifications on permeability. Using outcrop exposures of normal fault zones hosted in carbonate lithologies on the Maltese Islands, this study documents the evolution of textures in contrasting carbonate lithofacies (wackestones, packstones and pack/grainstones) across two normal fault zones of varying displacement (c. 10 and 100 m). The pore system modifications associated with these textural changes are quantified using image analysis and point count methods, while porosity and permeability are measured across the studied fault zones using core plug porosimetry and permeametry techniques.

The fault related processes that occur within the fault zones are controlled by the primary lithofacies and to a lesser extent the fault displacement. Aggrading neomorphism is observed within the damage zones in the grain supported lithofacies and is postdated by fracturing. In the micrite supported lithofacies in the same damage zones, aggrading neomorphism is absent, but fracturing is prevalent. In the fault core, brecciation occurs in both lithofacies within the 10 and 100 m displacement fault zones, while cataclasis is only active in the grain supported lithofacies in the higher displacement fault zone. The mineralogical and textural compositions of the primary lithofacies dictate the processes that occur in the fault zones. These processes variably modify the pore systems and hence control the temporal evolution of permeability in the fault zones. Such observations can help understand reservoir quality distribution around fault zones in the subsurface reservoirs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-82
Number of pages21
JournalMarine and Petroleum Geology
Early online date13 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016

Bibliographical note

The authors would like to thank Total E&P and BG Group for project funding and support, and the Industry Technology Facilitator for facilitating the collaborative development (grant number 3322PSD). The authors would also like to express their gratitude to the Aberdeen Formation Evaluation Society and the College of Physical Sciences at the University of Aberdeen for partial financial support. Raymi Castilla (Total E&P), Fabrizio Agosta and Cathy Hollis are also thanked for their constructive comments and suggestions to improve the standard of this manuscript as are John Still and Colin Taylor (University of Aberdeen) for technical assistance in the laboratory. Piero Gianolla is thanked for his editorial handling of the manuscript.


  • permeability
  • porosity
  • pore systems
  • carbonates
  • normal fault zones


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