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AAPG Bulletin, V. 86, No. 7 (July 2002),Copyright ©2002. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.

Computing permeability of fault zones in eolian sandstone from outcrop measurements

Herve Jourde,1 Eric A. Flodin,2 Atilla Aydin,3 Louis J. Durlofsky,4 Xian-Huan Wen5

1Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, California, 94305-2115; current address: Hydrosciences Laboratory, Maison des Sciences de l'Eau, 300 av. Emile Jeanbrau, 34090 Montpellier, France; email: [email protected]
2Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, Building 320, Room 118, Stanford University, Stanford, California, 94305-2115; email: [email protected]
3Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, Building 320, Room 118, Stanford University, Stanford, California, 94305-2115; email: [email protected]
4Department of Petroleum Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California, 94305-2220; second address: ChevronTexaco E&P Technology Company, P.O. Box 6019, San Ramon, California, 94583-0719; email: [email protected]
5ChevronTexaco E&P Technology Company, P.O. Box 6019, San Ramon, California, 94583-0719; email: [email protected]


Herve Jourde holds a Ph.D. from the Hydrosciences Laboratory at Montpellier II University (Maison des Sciences de l'Eau) and is now a research scientist at the same institution. His research interests include modeling the structure and hydrodynamic behavior of fractured reservoirs, upscaling of coarse blocks comprising discrete geological features, and assessing the influence of field-measured parameters on scaled-up properties.

Eric A. Flodin received a B.S. degree (1998) in geology from Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. He is currently in the structural geology and geomechanics graduate program at Stanford University and expects to receive a Ph.D. in the fall of 2002. His research focuses on the growth, evolution, and fluid flow properties of brittle faults in sandstone.

Atilla Aydin received his B.S. degree in geological engineering from Istanbul Technical University (Turkey) and his M.S. degree and Ph.D. in geology from Stanford University. After 14 years of teaching at Istanbul Technical University and Purdue University, he moved to Stanford University as a research professor of structural geology and geomechanics. He is also codirector of the Rock Fracture Project and director of the Shale Smear Project at Stanford. His research interests include fluid flow through fractures and faults with a primary application to hydrocarbon entrapment, migration, and recovery.

Louis J. Durlofsky has joint appointments as an associate professor in the Petroleum Engineering Department at Stanford University and as a senior staff research scientist at ChevronTexaco in San Ramon, California. He holds a Ph.D. from MIT in chemical engineering. Durlofsky's research interests include reservoir simulation, upscaling of geologically complex systems, and modeling the performance of nonconventional wells.

Xian-Huan Wen is a lead research scientist on the Reservoir Simulation Research Team at ChevronTexaco in San Ramon, California. He holds Ph.D.s in civil engineering from the Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, and from the Technical University of Valencia, Spain. Wen's research interests include upscaling of heterogeneous reservoir models, integration of dynamic data for geostatistical reservoir characterization, and the assessment of uncertainty in reservoir performance predictions.


We thank Rod Myers for providing us with the detailed maps of the faults studied in this article and for his assistance in their use. This work was supported by the Rock Fracture Project at Stanford University and a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences (DE-FG03-94ER14462) to Atilla Aydin and David D. Pollard.


The large-scale equivalent permeabilities of strike-slip faults in porous sandstone are computed from detailed field measurements. The faults, which occur in the Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada, were previously characterized, and the flow properties of their individual features were estimated. The faults formed from the shearing of joint zones and are composed of a core of fine-grain fault rock (gouge) and deformation bands and a peripheral damage zone of joints and sheared joints. High-resolution fault-zone maps and permeability data, estimated using image analysis calibrated to actual measurements, are incorporated into detailed finite difference numerical calculations to determine the permeability of regions of the fault zone.

Faults with slips of magnitude 6, 14, and 150 m are considered. The computed fault-zone permeabilities are strongly anisotropic in all cases. Permeability enhancement of nearly 1 order of magnitude (relative to the host rock) is observed for the fault-parallel component in some regions. Fault-normal permeability, by contrast, may be 2 orders of magnitude less than the host rock permeability. The fault-normal permeability is a minimum for the fault with the highest slip. For a representative fault region, the fault-parallel component of permeability is highly sensitive to the fracture aperture, although the fault-normal permeability is insensitive. The procedures developed and applied in this article can be used for any type of fault for which detailed structural and permeability data are available or can be estimated.

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