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Abstract

AAPG Bulletin, V. 94, No. 2 (February 2010), P. 221240.

Copyright copy2010. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.

DOI:10.1306/08050908169

Geomechanical modeling of an extensional fault-propagation fold: Big Brushy Canyon monocline, Sierra Del Carmen, Texas

Kevin J. Smart,1 David A. Ferrill,2 Alan P. Morris,3 Barron J. Bichon,4 David S. Riha,5 Luc Huyse6

1Department of Earth, Material, and Planetary Sciences, Geosciences and Engineering Division, Southwest Research Institute, 6220 Culebra Road, San Antonio, Texas 78238-5166; [email protected]
2Department of Earth, Material, and Planetary Sciences, Geosciences and Engineering Division, Southwest Research Institute, 6220 Culebra Road, San Antonio, Texas 78238-5166
3Department of Earth, Material, and Planetary Sciences, Geosciences and Engineering Division, Southwest Research Institute, 6220 Culebra Road, San Antonio, Texas 78238-5166
4Materials Engineering Department, Mechanical and Materials Engineering Division, Southwest Research Institute, 6220 Culebra Road, San Antonio, Texas 78238-5166
5Materials Engineering Department, Mechanical and Materials Engineering Division, Southwest Research Institute, 6220 Culebra Road, San Antonio, Texas 78238-5166
6Materials Engineering Department, Mechanical and Materials Engineering Division, Southwest Research Institute, 6220 Culebra Road, San Antonio, Texas 78238-5166; present address: Chevron Energy Technology Company, 1400 Smith Street, Houston, Texas 77002

ABSTRACT

Field structural data from the Big Brushy Canyon monocline developed in Cretaceous strata of west Texas are combined with nonlinear finite element modeling to help bridge the gap between geometric, kinematic, and mechanical analysis techniques for understanding the deformation history of reservoir-scale geologic structures. The massive Santa Elena Limestone is offset along a steep normal fault, and fault displacement is accommodated upward by the folding of the Buda Limestone and Boquillas Formation and the thinning in the intervening Del Rio Clay. Mesostructures within competent Buda Limestone beds are concentrated in the monocline limb instead of the hinge and include bed-perpendicular veins that accommodate bed-parallel extension and bedding-plane slip surfaces that offset the veins and accommodate flexural slip. Finite element models were constructed to reproduce the monocline geometry and deformation distribution as well as to assess the effect of material properties and boundary conditions on structural evolution. The initial model configuration replicated the assumed predeformational geometry, included frictional sliding surfaces to allow for bedding-parallel slip, and used a displacement boundary condition at the base of the Santa Elena footwall to simulate fault motion. Geometry and strain evolution were tracked so that (1) fold shape, (2) cumulative extension, and (3) layer-parallel shear strain could be compared to field observations. Iterative model runs successfully matched field data and revealed the importance of benchmarking the model results against monocline geometry, layer-parallel extensional strain, and bedding slip in the natural example. Our results illustrate the potential use of this modeling approach whereby calibration is performed using available data and is followed by strain measurement throughout the model domain to aid in prediction of subseismic faults and fractures. This geomechanical modeling approach provides a powerful tool for site-specific subsurface deformation prediction in hydrocarbon reservoirs that incorporates details of the local mechanical stratigraphy and structural setting.

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