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Title: Influence of gouge thickness on permeability of macro-fractured basalt
Authors: Wang, G.
Mitchell, T. M.
Meredith, P. G.
Nara, Y.
Wu, Z.
Author's alias: 奈良, 禎太
Keywords: fracture permeability
fault gouge
gouge thickness
grain size
pressure cycling
Issue Date: Dec-2016
Publisher: American Geophysical Union (AGU)
Journal title: Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Volume: 121
Issue: 12
Start page: 8472
End page: 8487
Abstract: Fractures allow crystalline rocks to store and transport fluids, but fracture permeability can also be influenced significantly by the existence or absence of gouge and by stress history. To investigate these issues, we measured the water permeability of macrofractured basalt samples unfilled or infilled with gouge of different grain sizes and thicknesses as a function of hydrostatic stress and also under cyclic stress conditions. In all experiments, permeability decreased with increasing effective pressure, but unfilled fractures exhibited a much greater decrease than gouge‐filled fractures. Macrofractures filled with fine‐grained gouge had the lowest permeabilities and exhibited the smallest change with pressure. By contrast, the permeability changed significantly more in fractures filled with coarser‐grained gouge. During cyclic pressurization, permeability decreased with increasing cycle number until reaching a minimum value after a certain number of cycles. Permeability reduction in unfilled fractures is accommodated by both elastic and inelastic deformation of surface asperities, while measurements of the particle size distribution and compaction in gouge‐filled fractures indicate only inelastic compaction. In fine‐grained gouge this is accommodated by grain rearrangement, while in coarser‐grained gouge it is the result of both grain rearrangement and comminution. Overall, sample permeability is dominated by the gouge permeability, which decreases with increasing thickness and is also sensitive to the grain size and its distribution. Our results imply that there is a crossover depth in the crust below which the permeability of well‐mated fractures (e.g., joints) becomes lower than that of gouge‐filled fractures (e.g., shear faults).
Rights: ©2016. The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
DOI(Published Version): 10.1002/2016JB013363
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