Fault and fracture systems related to reactivation of pre-existing structural elements, Devils River Uplift and Maverick Basin, Texas

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Smith, Gordon Allen

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Pre-existing structural elements can have substantial effects on fracture and fault development in younger strata, especially in areas that undergo significant changes in tectonic setting due to reactivation along older structures. This may affect reservoir permeability, yet remain difficult to detect in subsurface data. The focus of this study centers on two styles of pre-existing structures—Paleozoic thrust belts and Late Triassic rift faults in the Devils River Uplift and Maverick Basin, respectively—which affect the development of faults and fractures in Cretaceous strata. Fault and fracture data were characterized in both the outcrop and within a 3D seismic volume. Furthermore, the role of mechanical stratigraphy on fault and fracture style in both localities was examined. The Pecos River Canyon overlies the Paleozoic Ouachita fold-thrust belt with associated EW and SE-NW trending structures. At the surface, faults are expressed in two predominant orientations (N38E and N70E), which may be predictable angles if the pre-existing structures are reactivated by left lateral oblique slip. Detailed investigation of the fracture development related to these faults was conducted in a dry side canyon along the Pecos River. Mechanical layers were identified and mapped in outcrop to highlight fracture intensity variations between the different layers. The porosity and/or the degree of dolomitization are identified as controls on fracture development, with the lowest strength layer and least fractured being highly dolomitized with the largest porosity of any observed layer in outcrop. Southeast of Lewis Canyon, a 3D seismic of the Maverick Basin reveals linear discontinuities, interpreted as low-offset faults, within the Cretaceous Glen Rose through Austin Chalk that appear similar to those observed in outcrop along the Lower Pecos River. These faults are shown to have an increase in intensity within strata above older Late Triassic-age rift faults. It is proposed that the small faults form during reactivation of the rift faults and exhibit differential degrees of intensity and vertical terminations against six identified mechanical boundaries observed within the 3D seismic volume.



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