American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)
Outcrops of the Cretaceous high-porosity sandstone of the Southeast Basin, France, show two main types of deformation structures: a large number of small-offset, shear-enhanced cataclastic deformation bands (DBs); and a small number of large (meters to decameters)-offset ultracataclastic fault zones. Microstructural analyses of the cataclastic DBs show that fragmentation produces strands of cataclastic fragment-supported matrix, separated by weakly fractured host rock, which cluster to form the DBs. The ultracataclastic fault zones, however, are composed of a matrix-supported ultracataclasite material. Permeability data show that the DBs reduce host-rock permeability by 0.5 to 2 orders of magnitude, whereas the ultracataclasites reduce permeability by approximately 4 orders. Simple calculations considering the structural frequency, thickness, and permeability of these faults suggest that, although the DBs may have an impact on single-phase flow, it is most likely to be less than a 50% reduction in flow rate in extensional contexts, but it may be more severe in the most extreme cases of structural density in tectonic shortening contexts. The larger ultracataclastic faults, however, despite their much lower frequency, will have a more significant reduction in flow rate, probably of approximately 90 to 95%. Hence, although they are commonly at or below the limit of seismic resolution, the detection and/or prediction of such ultracataclastic faults is likely to be more important for single-phase flow problems than DBs (although important two-phase questions remain). The study also suggests that it is inappropriate to use the petrophysical properties of core-scale DB structures as analogs to larger seismic-scale faults.