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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

AAPG Special Volumes


P. Boult and J. Kaldi, eds., 2005, Evaluating fault and cap rock seals: AAPG Hedberg Series, no. 2, p. 247-260.


Copyright copy2005 by The American Association of Petroleum Geologists.

Formation Fluids in Faulted Aquifers: Examples from the Foothills of Western Canada and the North West Shelf of Australia

J. R. Underschultz,1 C. J. Otto,1 R. Bartlett2

1Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization Petroleum, Bentley, Western Australia, Australia
2Hydro-Fax Resources Ltd., Calgary, Alberta, Canada


We thank Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization Petroleum and Hydro-Fax Resources Ltd for supporting the publication of this work. Appreciation is due to Pat Ward, who instigated the initial hydrodynamic work at Moose Mountain. We are grateful for thought-provoking discussions with Allison Hennig, Dan Barson, and Kent Wilkinson. Comments from Jennifer Adams, Jenny Stedmon, and Tim Wood and technical reviews by Barb Tilley, Neil Tupper, and John Kaldi helped improve this chapter.


Faults and fault zones commonly represent key geological factors in determining migration fairways and assessing the retention and leakage history for hydrocarbons in the subsurface. Although formation pressure data are sparsely acquired from within fault zones themselves, hydrodynamic analysis of faulted aquifers can be used as an indirect indicator of the fault zone hydraulic properties. Case studies from the foothills of Western Canada and the North West Shelf of Australia are used to define a workflow for hydrodynamic analysis in faulted strata and to identify the manifestation of fault zone hydraulic properties on adjacent aquifer pressure systems for various tectonic settings.

Faults with significant displacement can form hydraulic barriers. In this case, fluid flow in the aquifer next to the fault is predominantly parallel to the structural grain, and a discontinuity occurs in the potentiometric surface for the aquifer being crosscut. Localized hydraulic communication (leakage), either across a fault in an aquifer or vertically along a fault zone between aquifers, tends to occur (1) where the fault zone bends out of plane from the dominant stress field; (2) where the main structural grain is crosscut by steeply dipping high-angle faults; or (3) where deformation is transferred from one fault zone to another through a relay zone or transfer fault. These are manifest by chemical or thermal anomalies and potentiometric highs or lows closed against the fault trace. Although conditions of fault zone conductivity tend to be localized, they can limit the trapping potential of structural closures by allowing the leakage and further migration of hydrocarbons.

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