Influence of carbonate facies on fault zone architecture
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Normal faults on Malta were studied to analyse fault propagation and evolution in different carbonate facies. Deformation of carbonate facies is controlled by strength, particle size and pore structure. Different deformation styles influence the damage characteristics surrounding faults, and therefore the fault zone architecture. The carbonates were divided into grain- and micrite-dominated carbonate lithofacies. Stronger grain-dominated carbonates show localised deformation, whereas weaker micrite-dominated carbonates show distributed deformation. The weaker micrite-dominated carbonates overlie stronger grain-dominated carbonates, creating a mechanical stratigraphy. A different architecture of damage, the ‘Fracture Splay Zone’ (FSZ), is produced within micrite-dominated carbonates due to this mechanical stratigraphy. Strain accumulates at the point of juxtaposition between the stronger grain-dominated carbonates in the footwall block and the weaker micrite-dominated carbonates in the hanging wall block. New slip surfaces nucleate and grow from these points, developing an asymmetric fault damage zone segment. The development of more slip surfaces within a single fault zone forms a zone of intense deformation, bound between two slip surfaces within the micrite-dominated carbonate lithofacies (i.e., the FSZ). Rather than localisation onto a single slip surface, allowing formation of a continuous fault core, the deformation will be dispersed along several slip surfaces. The dispersed deformation can create a highly permeable zone, rather than a baffle/seal, in the micrite-dominated carbonate lithofacies. The formation of a Fracture Splay Zone will therefore affect the sealing potential of the fault zone. The FSZ, by contrast, is not observed in the majority of the grain-dominated carbonates.
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