Hydromechanical Heterogeneities of a Mature Fault Zone: Impacts on Fluid Flow



In this paper, fluid flow is examined for a mature strike-slip fault zone with anisotropic permeability and internal heterogeneity. The hydraulic properties of the fault zone were first characterized in situ by microgeophysical (VP and σc) and rock-quality measurements (Q-value) performed along a 50-m long profile perpendicular to the fault zone. Then, the local hydrogeological context of the fault was modified to conduct a water-injection test. The resulting fluid pressures and flow rates through the different fault-zone compartments were then analyzed with a two-phase fluid-flow numerical simulation. Fault hydraulic properties estimated from the injection test signals were compared to the properties estimated from the multiscale geological approach. We found that (1) the microgeophysical measurements that we made yield valuable information on the porosity and the specific storage coefficient within the fault zone and (2) the Q-value method highlights significant contrasts in permeability. Fault hydrodynamic behavior can be modeled by a permeability tensor rotation across the fault zone and by a storativity increase. The permeability tensor rotation is linked to the modification of the preexisting fracture properties and to the development of new fractures during the faulting process, whereas the storativity increase results from the development of micro- and macrofractures that lower the fault-zone stiffness and allows an increased extension of the pore space within the fault damage zone. Finally, heterogeneities internal to the fault zones create complex patterns of fluid flow that reflect the connections of paths with contrasting properties.