The Corinth Rift Laboratory: monitoring of active faults
I. Moretti, J.P. Delhomme, F. Cornet, P. Bernard, C. Schmidt-Hattenberger and G. Borm
Journal name: First Break
Issue: Vol 20, No 2, February 2002
Info: Article, PDF ( 2.49Mb )
Price: € 30
In their aim to understand the hydraulic behaviour of faults and fractures, and their changes with stress variation, geoscientists are still poorly armed. On the one hand, data indicate that the rheology of faulted strata plays a major role: shale may create clay smearing (Lehner & Pilaar 1997), whereas, at temperatures over 80/100 °C, pressure solution processes quickly seal fractures in sandstones after rupture (Moretti et al. 2000; Labaume & Moretti 2001). The hydraulic behaviour of discontinuities also appears to be stress-dependent (Sibson 1994), and may therefore change during the depletion of oil and gas fields. We are still unable to quantify these changes and indicate eventual thresholds. On the other hand, fluid pressure influences the friction on the fault planes, and therefore changes the rate of displacement. A large number of seismologists consider that the low average friction coefficient in large fault zones is due to high fluid pressure (Evans 1992 and many others). The permanent and instantaneous hydraulic behaviour of faults and fractures under a stress/strain regime obviously differs due to diagenetic processes, but the rate of the fluid/rock interactions which could be related to the build up of high pressures in the faults themselves is still a subject of debate. In order to clarify these issues, a complete dataset is necessary. European academic and private laboratories (as well as some oil companies) have decided to pool their efforts to collect such a dataset by creating the Corinth Rift Laboratory (CRL), with the help of the EC. The goal is to investigate fault mechanics and their relation to fluid flow and earthquakes by continuous monitoring of strain, seismicity, fluid pressure and geochemistry – at the surface and at various depths in boreholes intersecting active faults. Due to the huge volume of data collected and the necessity of distributing these data to various centres, research in data management is also being carried out. Around the world, two other ambitious projects have been set up with the same goals but in different geological contexts: one to monitor the San Andreas fault, which is a strike-slip fault outcropping in granite, and a second to drill the subduction zone in Japan. In our case, we will drill extensional faults through sedimentary rocks; mainly limestones.