Spatial distribution of micrometre‐scale porosity and permeability across the damage zone of a reverse‐reactivated normal fault in a tight sandstone: Insights from the Otway Basin, SE Australia

Natalie Debenham (Corresponding Author), Natalie J C Farrell, Simon Holford, Rosalind C King, David Healy

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12 Citations (Scopus)
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Knowledge of the permeability structure of fault-bearing reservoir rocks is fundamental for developing robust hydrocarbon exploration and fluid monitoring strategies. Studies often describe the permeability structure of low porosity host rocks that have experienced simple tectonic histories, while investigations of the influence of faults with multiple-slip histories on the permeability structure of porous clastic rocks are limited. We present results from an integrated petrophysical, microstructural, and mineralogical investigation of the Eumeralla Formation (a tight volcanogenic sandstone) within the hanging wall of the Castle Cove Fault which strikes 30 km NE–SW in the Otway Basin, southeast Australia. This late Jurassic to Cenozoic-age basin has experienced multiple phases of extension and compression. Core plugs and thin sections oriented relative to the fault plane were sampled from the hanging wall at distances of up to 225 m from the Castle Cove Fault plane. As the fault plane is approached, connected porosities increase by approximately 10% (17% at 225 m to 24% at 0.5 m) and permeabilities increase by two orders of magnitude (from 0.04 mD at 225 m to 1.26 mD at 0.5 m). Backscattered Scanning Electron Microscope analysis shows that microstructural changes due to faulting have enhanced the micrometre-scale permeability structure of the Eumeralla Formation. These microstructural changes have been attributed to the formation of microfractures and destruction of original pore-lining chlorite morphology as a result of fault deformation. Complex deformation, i.e. formation of macrofractures, variably oriented microfractures, and a hanging wall anticline, associated with normal faulting and subsequent reverse faulting, has significantly influenced the off-fault fluid flow properties of the protolith. However, despite enhancement of the host rock permeability structure, the Eumeralla Formation at Castle Cove is still considered a tight sandstone. Our study shows that high-resolution integrated analyses of the host rock are critical for describing the micrometre-scale permeability structure of reservoir rocks with high porosities, low permeabilities, and abundant clays that have experienced complex deformation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)640-658
Number of pages19
JournalBasin Research
Issue number3
Early online date13 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

This research forms part of a PhD project supported by the Australian Research Council [Discovery Project DP160101158] and through an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship. Dave Healy acknowledges the support of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC, UK) through the award NE/N003063/1 ‘Quantifying the Anisotropy of Permeability in Stressed Rock’. This study was also funded by scholarships from the Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia and the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association. We thank Gordon Holm for preparing thin sections and Colin Taylor for carrying out particle size measurements and mercury injection capillary pressure analyses. Aoife McFadden and David Kelsey from Adelaide Microscopy, Braden Morgan, and Sophie Harland are acknowledged for their assistance with laboratory work. Field assistants James Hall, Rowan Hansberry, and Lachlan Furness are also gratefully acknowledged for their assistance with sample collection. Discussions with Ian Duddy on the mineralogy of the Eumeralla Formation are also greatly appreciated. This forms TRaX record 416.


  • porosity
  • permeability
  • reverse-reactivated normal fault
  • Otway Basin


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