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AAPG Bulletin


AAPG Bulletin, V. 88, No. 9 (September 2004), P. 1315-1329.

Copyright copy2004. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.

Permeability effects of deformation band arrays in sandstone

K. R. Sternlof,1 J. R. Chapin,2 D. D. Pollard,3 L. J. Durlofsky4

1Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University, 450 Serra Mall, Building 320, Stanford, California 94305; [email protected]
2Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University, 450 Serra Mall, Building 320, Stanford, California 94305
3Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University, 450 Serra Mall, Building 320, Stanford, California, 94305; [email protected]
4Department of Petroleum Engineering, Stanford University, Green Earth Sciences Building, Stanford, California, 94305; [email protected]


Kurt Sternlof earned a B.S. degree in structural geology from Yale University and, following a stint with the U.S. Geological Survey, his M.Sc. degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He juggled careers in science journalism, environmental consulting, and theater before arriving at Stanford in 2000 to pursue a Ph.D. Kurt is both a certified professional geologist and a member of Actors' Equity Association.

Jeffrey R. Chapin earned a B.S.E. degree in civil engineering from Princeton University in 1998 and his M.S. degree in engineering from Stanford University in 2003. He originated the fieldwork and modeling that led to this paper while a visiting researcher with the Stanford Rock Fracture Project during 1999.

David Pollard is the Morris Professor of Earth Sciences at Stanford University and codirector of the Rock Fracture Project, an industrial affiliates program. He received a B.A. degree from Pomona College, a Ph.D. from Stanford University, and an M.Sc. degree from Imperial College in structural geology. His research focuses on rock fracturing and faulting, with applications to fluid flow in heterogeneous reservoirs.

Louis Durlofsky holds joint appointments as a professor of petroleum engineering at Stanford University and as a senior staff research scientist at ChevronTexaco Energy Technology Company in San Ramon, California. His research interests include the upscaling of detailed geological models for flow simulation, modeling and optimization of nonconventional wells, and general reservoir simulation.


We thank Eric Flodin and Nick Davatzes for their assistance in the field and Herve Jourde for his help in the field and with the numerical modeling. We also thank the staff at the Valley of Fire State Park for their cooperation and assistance. This work was supported by Department of Energy Basic Energy Science Research Grant DE-FG03-94ER14462.


We use established analytical methods and numerical computation techniques to model the net effect on sandstone permeability induced by realistic arrays of low-permeability deformation bands. Our two-dimensional approach, based on homogenization theory, allows the local permeability impact of any deformation band pattern to be calculated and provides a framework within which to extrapolate the effects of systematic patterns to the reservoir-simulation scale. We demonstrate the method for each of three characteristic deformation band patterns—parallel, cross-hatch, and anastomosing—exposed in the Aztec Sandstone at the Valley of Fire, Nevada, which provides an excellent exhumed analog for active sandstone reservoirs. Our analysis indicates that these systematic and extensive deformation band patterns can reduce overall permeability by as much as two orders of magnitude at scales relevant to reservoir production while inducing similar magnitudes of permeability anisotropy. We conclude that accounting for the aggregate effects of deformation bands in the subsurface would significantly improve reservoir simulation and production management in sandstone.

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