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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

AAPG Bulletin


Modeling Tip Zones to Predict the Throw and 
Length Characteristics of Faults

G. Pickering, 2, 3 D. C. P. Peacock, 4, 5 D. J. Sanderson,2 and J. M. Bull2


A map of faults in a 60 km2 area of the southern North Sea has been produced from three-dimensional seismic data. The faults shown on the map obey power-law cumulative-frequency distributions for throw (power-law exponent, D, ~ 2.7) and length (D ~ 1.1). Simulations have been carried out to correct for sampling biases in the data and to make predictions of the throw and length scaling characteristics of the faults. The most important bias is caused by poor resolution of the small displacement tip zones of faults. The raw data show considerable scatter in their length:throw ratios, but they more closely fit a linear relationship if a length of 500 m is added to each fault, thereby making up for the zones near the fault tips with throws (~ 15 m) below seismic resolution. Further variability in the data may be caused by such geological factors as fault interaction.

Tip lengths have been extended to simulate the actual fault pattern in the study area. Maps produced by this procedure can be used to estimate the true connectivity of the fault network. Extending the faults results in greater connectivity than shown by the raw data, which may cause greater compartmentalization of the rock mass. This greater compartmentalization has implications for hydrocarbon exploitation if the faults 

©Copyright 1996. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.

1Manuscript received October 2, 1995; revised manuscript received February 15, 1996; final acceptance July 15, 1996.

2Geomechanics Research Group, Department of Geology, University of Southampton, Southampton Oceanographic Centre, Empress Dock, European Way, Southampton, SO14 3ZH, United Kingdom.

3Present address: British Gas, Gas Research Centre, Ashby Road, Loughborough, Leicestershire, LE11 3QU, United Kingdom.

4Department of Geological Sciences, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA, United Kingdom.

5Present address: Rock Deformation Research Group, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, United Kingdom.

Mobil North Sea Ltd. is thanked for funding G. Pickering and for providing seismic data. Funding for field work in Somerset was given by the University of Plymouth. Kevin Biddle, Nancye Dawers, James Handschy, and William Shea are thanked for their careful reviews.

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