logo for Carbonate Fault Project

Contact Information

Alan Morris, Ph.D.
(210) 522-6743

David Ferrill, Ph.D.
(210) 522-6082

Integrated Investigations of Faulting in Carbonate Strata

Image: Profile view of Hidden Valley fault zone at waterfall looking west southwest

This profile view of Hidden Valley fault zone at waterfall looking west southwest shows a synthetic dip in the footwall damage zone, and conjugate normal faulting in both footwall and hanging wall.

image of 3D StressĀ®: Stress Management Through Better Understanding Brochure.

3D Stress®—Stress Management Through Better Understanding Brochure

image of Carbonate Fault Project Brochure

Carbonate Fault Project Brochure

A Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) Project

Project Motivation and Scope

The permeability architecture of faults in carbonate rocks is of fundamental importance to hydrocarbon reservoir performance, but the architecture remains poorly understood. We will characterize the deformation features that develop in faulted carbonate rocks and integrate structural analysis with lithologic and hydrologic characterization.

The project will generate a quantitative data set of normal fault characteristics in carbonate strata and their effects on permeability.

Image: Low-altitude aerial photograph of Canyon Lake Gorge

This low-altitude aerial photograph of Canyon Lake Gorge shows traces of faults and locations of springs, pools, and infiltration points in a channel. View is to the east northeast, along the strike of the Hidden Valley fault.

Project Location

Detailed work will be conducted on the recently exhumed Hidden Valley fault, which cuts the Cretaceous Glen Rose formation of south-central Texas. Additional work on faults within the Cretaceous strata of south-central and west Texas will provide a context for the interpretation and application of the detailed work. The Hidden Valley fault is representative of structures that are common in carbonate oil reservoirs and the unique site permits us to study the interplay between structure, rock type, and fault-zone hydraulic properties.

Specific Project Tasks

  • Stratigraphic and Lithologic Characterization

    • Develop detailed measured sections of hanging wall and footwall
    • Measure natural gamma ray log
    • Characterize textures and quantify clay content of host lithologies
  • Structural Analysis
    • Analyze mechanical stratigraphy
    • Produce detailed maps of outcrop scale structural elements
    • Perform microstructural analysis
    • Develop a digital geologic framework model from field mapping and borehole data
  • Well Infrastructure
    • Drill, core, log, and complete wells as multi-level piezometers in the hanging wall and footwall of Hidden Valley fault
  • Hydrologic Characterization
    • Assemble water-level data for Canyon Lake and local water wells
    • Monitor springs, seeps, and influent/effluent surface water bodies
    • Measure water flow rates within Canyon Lake Gorge
    • Monitor water pressures at multiple intervals in monitoring wells
  • Geomechanical Characterization
    • Conduct tests to characterize geomechanical properties of representative lithologies from the Hidden Valley fault exposure
    • Perform numerical geomechanical simulations using finite element and distinct element methods to simulate deformation associated with Hidden Valley fault

Related Terminology

Image: Photomicrographs of fault rock in Cretaceous limestone

Photomicrographs of fault rock in Cretaceous limestone, from a fault in the the Balcones fault system in Central Texas, illustrates stylolites, vein fill, and twinning of vein calcite.

carbonate strata  •  permeability architecture  •  carbonate rock faults  •  hydrocarbon reservoir performance  •  deformation features  •  lithologic characterization  •  hydrologic characterization  •  normal fault characteristics  •  Hidden Valley fault  •  Cretaceous Glen Rose formation  •  stratigraphic characterization

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Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®), headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, is a multidisciplinary, independent, nonprofit, applied engineering and physical sciences research and development organization with 9 technical divisions.