Stress concentrations at structural discontinuities in active fault zones in the western United States: Implications for permeability and fluid flow in geothermal fields

GSA Bulletin
By: , and 

Links

Abstract

Slip can induce concentration of stresses at discontinuities along fault systems. These structural discontinuities, i.e., fault terminations, fault step-overs, intersections, bends, and other fault interaction areas, are known to host fluid flow in ore deposition systems, oil and gas reservoirs, and geothermal systems. We modeled stress transfer associated with slip on faults with Holocene-to-historic slip histories at the Salt Wells and Bradys geothermal systems in western Nevada, United States. Results show discrete locations of stress perturbation within discontinuities along these fault systems. Well field data, surface geothermal manifestations, and subsurface temperature data, each a proxy for modern fluid circulation in the fields, indicate that geothermal fluid flow is focused in these same areas where stresses are most highly perturbed. These results suggest that submeter- to meter-scale slip on these fault systems generates stress perturbations that are sufficiently large to promote slip on an array of secondary structures spanning the footprint of the modern geothermal activity. Slip on these secondary faults and fractures generates permeability through kinematic deformation and allows for transmission of fluids. Still, mineralization is expected to seal permeability along faults and fractures over time scales that are generally shorter than either earthquake recurrence intervals or the estimated life span of geothermal fields. This suggests that though stress perturbations resulting from fault slip are broadly important for defining the location and spatial extent of enhanced permeability at structural discontinuities, continual generation and maintenance of flow conduits throughout these areas are probably dependent on the deformation mechanism(s) affecting individual structures.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Stress concentrations at structural discontinuities in active fault zones in the western United States: Implications for permeability and fluid flow in geothermal fields
Series title GSA Bulletin
DOI 10.1130/B31729.1
Volume 130
Issue 7-8
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher Geological Society of America
Contributing office(s) Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center
Description 16 p.
First page 1273
Last page 1288