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Can injection tests reveal the potential for fault movements?

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The role of fluids in faulting mechanism and triggering earthquakes is widely accepted. The effective-stress law is the basis for the postulated theories. Using a generalized version of this law, applicable to both continuum and discontinuities, hydromechanical behaviour of a horizontal fracture in a hypothetical fluid-injection problem is investigated. In this problem the increasing intake flow rates, unpredictable by the traditional fluid-flow solutions, brings out another significant aspect of the role of the fluid pressure in rocks. By reducing the magnitude of the compressive effective stresses the fluid pressure causes elastic recovery in fractures. Simple rheologic models are used to demonstrate this fact. Such effects may lead to permeability increases in the rock mass, depending on the magnitude of the fluid pressure. Such variations in permeability, however, are governed by the path dependency of the fracture-deformation response. Therefore, a significant increase in permeability is an indication of comparability of the state of stress and the applied fluid pressure.

This index may reveal the potential of hydroactivation of faults, as may arise in the regions of dam reservoirs, underground waste injections, and known faults, for certain ranges of working pressures relevant to each of the above-cited situations. Fluid-injection tests under constant working pressures are suggested as a means revealing the likelihood of movement on the faults.

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Noorishad, J., Witherspoon, P.A. Can injection tests reveal the potential for fault movements?. PAGEOPH 122, 608–618 (1984).

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Key words

  • Fault
  • Fracture
  • Hydrochemical
  • Flud injection
  • Permeability