Deformation bands in porous sandstones, their microstructure and petrophysical properties
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Deformation bands are commonly thin tabular zones of crushed or reorganized grains that form in highly porous rocks and sediments. Unlike a fault, typically the slip is negligible in deformation bands. In this dissertation the microstructure and petrophysical properties of deformation bands have been investigated through microscopy and numerical analysis of experimental and natural examples. The experimental work consists of a series of ring-shear experiments performed on porous sand at 5 and 20 MPa normal stresses and followed by microscopic examination of thin sections from the sheared samples. The results of the ring-shear experiments and comparison of them to natural deformation bands reveals that burial depth (level of normal stress in the experiments) and the amount of shear displacement during deformation are the two significant factors influencing the mode in which grains break and the type of shear zone that forms. Two end-member types of experimental shear zones were identified: (a) Shear zones with diffuse boundaries, which formed at low levels of normal stress and/or shear displacement; and (b) Shear zones with sharp boundaries, which formed at higher levels of normal stress and/or shear displacement. Our interpretation is that with increasing burial depth (approximately more than one kilometer, simulated in the experiments by higher levels of normal stress), the predominant mode of grain fracturing changes from flaking to splitting; which facilitates the formation of sharp-boundary shear zones. This change to grain splitting increases the power law dimension of the grain size distribution (D is about 1.5 in sharp boundary shear zones). Based on our observations, initial grain size has no influence in the deformation behavior of the sand at 5 MPa normal stresses. A new type of cataclastic deformation band is described through outcrop and microscopic studies; here termed a "slipped deformation band". Whereas previouslyreported cataclastic deformation bands are characterized by strain hardening, these new bands feature a central slip surface, which indicates late strain softening. They lack the characteristic compaction envelop, and are typified by higher porosity and lower permeability than previously-described cataclastic deformation bands. Intense background fracturing of the host rock and significant initial porosity are considered to be important in creating these newly-discovered deformation bands. In a related study, we investigate, for millimeter- wide deformation bands, the scale limitation inherent in laboratory measurements of porosity and permeability. The scale limitations imposed by the deformation band relative to the physical sample size motivated us to develop a new method for determining porosity and permeability based on image processing. While plug measurements measure the effective permeability across a 25.4 mm (1 inch) long sample, which includes both host rock and deformation band, the method presented here provides a means to estimate porosity and permeability of deformation band on microscale. This method utilizes low-order (one- and twoorders) spatial correlation functions to analyze high-resolution, high-magnification backscatter images, to estimate the porosity and specific surface area of the pore-grain interface in the deformed sandstones. Further, this work demonstrates the use of a modified version of the Kozeny-Carmen relation to calculate permeability by using porosity and specific surface area obtained through the image processing. The result shows that permeability difference between the band and the host rock is up to four orders of magnitude. Moreover, the porosities and permeabilities estimated from image processing are lower than those obtained from their plug measurements; hence the traditional laboratory measurements have been overestimating permeability because of the previously-unrecognized scale problem. In addition, the image processing results clearly show that, as a result of microstructural variation, both porosity and permeability vary along the length of individual deformation bands, with permeability variations of up to two orders of magnitude. Such petrophysical variations are found in several types of deformation bands (disaggregation, cataclastic and dissolution bands), but the range depends on the deformation mechanisms, in particular on the degree of (i) cataclasis, (ii) dissolution in cataclastic and dissolution bands, and (iii) on the phyllosilicate content in disaggregation bands. This microscopic anisotropy in the petrophysical properties of deformation bands opens up a new and fruitful area for further research. Our results show that for phyllosilicate bands the band thickness is related to the phyllosilicate content, whereas for cataclastic bands no apparent correlation was found between thickness and intensity of cataclasis.
Paper I: Tectonophysics 437(1-4), Torabi, A.; Braathen, A.; Cuisiat, F.; Fossen, H., Shear zones in porous sand: Insights from ring-shear experiments and naturally deformed sandstones, pp. 37-50. Copyright 2007 Elsevier B.V. Full text not available in BORA due to publisher restrictions. The published version is available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tecto.2007.02.018Paper II: Journal of Structural Geology 30(11), Rotevatn, A.; Torabi, A.; Fossen, H.; Braathen, A., Slipped deformation bands: a new type of cataclastic deformation bands in Western Sinai, Suez Rift, Egypt. Copyright 2008 Elsevier Ltd. Full text not available in BORA. The published version is available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jsg.2008.06.010Paper III: Journal of Geophysical Research 113, Torabi, A.; Fossen, H.; Alaei, B., Application of spatial correlation functions in permeability estimation of small-scale deformation bands in porous rocks, B08208. Copyright 2008 by the American Geophysical Union. Full text not available in BORA. The published version is available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2007JB005455Paper IV: Torabi, A.; Fossen, H., 2008, Spatial variation of microstructure and petrophysical properties of deformation bands. Full text not available in BORA.