Pure and Applied Geophysics

, Volume 171, Issue 11, pp 2887–2897 | Cite as

Wet Fault or Dry Fault? A Laboratory Approach to Remotely Monitor the Hydro-Mechanical State of a Discontinuity Using Controlled-Source Seismics

  • Joachim PlaceEmail author
  • Oshaine Blake
  • Daniel Faulkner
  • Andreas Rietbrock


Stress variation and fluid migration occur in deformation zones, which are expected to affect seismic waves reflected off or propagating across such structures. We developed a basic experimental approach to monitor the mechanical coupling with respect to seismic coupling across a single discontinuity between a granite sample in contact with a steel platen. Piezoceramics located on the platen were used to both generate and record the P and S wave fields reflected off the discontinuity at normal incidence. This way, normal (B n ) and tangential (B t ) compliances were calculated using Schoenberg’s linear slip theory (Schoenberg, J Acoust Soc Am 68:1516–1521, 1980) when the roughness, the effective pressure (P eff, up to 200 MPa), and the nature of the filling (gas or water) vary. We observe that increasing the effective pressure decreases B n and B t , which is interpreted as the effect of the closure of the voids at the interface, permitting more seismic energy to be transmitted across the interface. Values of B n are significantly higher than those of B t at low P eff (<60–80 MPa) in dry conditions, and significantly drop under water-saturated conditions. The water filling the voids therefore helps to transmit the seismic energy of compressional waves across the interface. These results show that the assumption B n  ≈ B t commonly found in some theoretical approaches does not always stand. The ratio B n /B t actually reflects the type of saturating fluids and the effective pressure, in agreement with other experimental studies. However, we illustrate that only the relative variations of this ratio seem to be relevant, not its absolute value as suggested in previous studies. Consequently, the use of B n against B t plots may allow effective pressure variation and the nature of the pore fluid to be inferred. In this respect, this experimental approach at sample scale helps to pave the way for remotely monitoring in the field the hydro-mechanical state of deformation zones, such as seismogenic faults, fractured reservoirs, or lava conduits.


Laboratory measurements seismic fault discontinuity fracture compliance linear slip theory hydro mechanical monitoring effective pressure fluid identification 



We would like to thank members of the University of Liverpool, especially Betty Mariani, Julia Behnsen, Dan Tatham, John Wheeler, Steve Hicks and Richard Holme, as well as Clarisse Bordes (Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour) for their technical help and constructive discussions. The paper benefited from constructive comments from two anonymous reviewers and Antonio Rovelli, Editor. Kay Lancaster (University of Liverpool) is acknowledged for improvement of the figures.


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joachim Place
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Oshaine Blake
    • 1
  • Daniel Faulkner
    • 1
  • Andreas Rietbrock
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Earth, Ocean and Ecological Sciences, School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK
  2. 2.Department of Earth SciencesUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden

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