Carbonate aquifers in fold-thrust belt settings often have low-matrix porosity and permeability, and thus groundwater flow pathways depend on high porosity and permeability fracture and fault zones. Methods from sedimentology and structural geology are combined to understand the evolution of fracture controlled flow pathways and determine their spatial distribution. Through this process bed-parallel pressure-solution surfaces (PS1) are identified as a fracture type which influences fragmentation in peritidal and basinal carbonate, and upon shearing provides a major flow pathway in fold - thrust belt carbonate aquifers. Through stratigraphic analysis and fracture mapping, depositional setting is determined to play a critical role in PS1 localization and spacing where peritidal strata have closer spaced and less laterally continuous PS1 than basinal strata. In the peritidal platform facies, units with planar lamination have bed-parallel pressure-solution seams along mudstone laminae. In contrast, burrowed units of peritidal strata have solution seams with irregular and anastamosing geometries. Laminated units with closely spaced bed-parallel solution seams are more fragmented than bioturbated units with anastamosing solution seams. In the deeper-water depositional environment, pelagic settling and turbidity currents are the dominant sedimentation processes, resulting in laterally continuous deposits relative to the peritidal platform environment. To quantify the fracture patterns in the basinal environment, mechanical layer thickness values were measured from regions of low to high bed dip. The results define a trend in which mechanical layer thickness decreases as layer dip increases. A conceptual model is presented that emphasizes the link between sedimentary and structural fabric for the peritidal and basinal environments, where solution seams localize in mud-rich intervals, and the resulting pressure-solution surface geometry is influenced by sedimentary geometry (i.e., stacked fining upward cycles, burrows, planar laminations). In both facies types, laterally continuous PS1 can behave as mechanical layer boundaries. As layer-parallel slip increases to accommodate shear strain in the fold - thrust belt, more PS1 behave as mechanical layer boundaries. ?? 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Additional publication details
Influence of depositional setting and sedimentary fabric on mechanical layer evolution in carbonate aquifers