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Solid Earth An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 26 Mar 2020

Submitted as: research article | 26 Mar 2020

Review status
This preprint is currently under review for the journal SE.

Geologic characterization of nonconformities using outcrop and whole-rock core analogues: hydrologic implications for injection-induced seismicity

Elizabeth S. Petrie1, Kelly K. Bradbury2, Laura Cuccio2, Kayla Smith2, James P. Evans2, John P. Ortiz4,5, Kellie Kerner3, Mark Person3, and Peter Mozley3 Elizabeth S. Petrie et al.
  • 1Western Colorado University, Geology Department, 1 Western Way, Gunnison, 81231, USA
  • 2Utah State University, Geology Department, 4505 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT84322-4505, USA
  • 3New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, 801 Leroy Pl Socorro, NM 87801, USA
  • 4Computational Earth Science Group, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM 87544, USA
  • 5Johns Hopkins University, Department of Environmental Health and Engineering, 3400 N.Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218, USA

Abstract. The occurrence of induced earthquakes in crystalline rocks kilometres from deep wastewater injection wells poses questions about the influence nonconformity contacts have on the downward and lateral transmission of pore fluid pressure and poroelastic stresses. We hypothesize that structural and mineralogical heterogeneities at the sedimentary-crystalline rock nonconformity control the degree to which fluids, fluid pressure, and associated poroelastic stresses are transmitted over long distances across and along the nonconformity boundary. We examined the spatial distribution of physical and chemical heterogeneities in outcrops and whole-rock core samples of the great nonconformity in the midcontinent of the United States, capturing a range of tectonic settings and rock properties that we use to characterize the degree of historical fluid communication and the potential for future communication. We identify three end-member nonconformity types that represent a range of properties that will influence direct fluid pressure transmission and poroelastic responses far from the injection site. These nonconformity types vary depending on whether the contact is sharp and minimally altered, or if it is dominated by phyllosilicates or secondary non-phyllosilicate mineralization. We expect the rock properties associated with the presence or absence of secondary non-phyllosilicate mineralization and phyllosilicates to either allow or inhibit fractures to cross the nonconformity, thus impacting the permeability of the nonconformity zone. Our observations provide geologic constraints for modelling fluid migration and the associated pressure communication and poroelastic effects at large-scale disposal projects by providing relevant subsurface properties and much needed data regarding common alteration minerals that may interact readily with brines or reactive fluids.

Elizabeth S. Petrie et al.

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Elizabeth S. Petrie et al.

Elizabeth S. Petrie et al.


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Latest update: 29 May 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
A summary of observed rock properties across the contact between crystalline basement rock and the overlying younger sedimentary rocks from outcrop and core samples is presented. The data span a range of tectonic settings and describe the rock types immediately adjacent to the contact. The range of features observed at these contacts can influence the migration of fluids. The observations presented here are critical for the safe implementation of fluid injection and geothermal production.
A summary of observed rock properties across the contact between crystalline basement rock and...