Fault-related dilation, permeability enhancement, fluid flow and mineral precipitation patterns: Numerical models

Yanhua Zhang, P. M. Schaubs, C. Zhao, A. Ord, B. E. Hobbs, A. C. Barnicoat

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review

86 Citations (Scopus)


Fault-related host rock deformation and dilation control fluid flow and mineralization in many world-class mineral deposits. This numerical modelling study explores the interactions between deformation, faulting, dilation, fluid flow and chemical processes, which are suggested to result in this control, with special attention to fault dilatant jog structures. Our two-dimensional numerical models focus on faulting-related deformation, dilation and permeability enhancement, fluid flow patterns and fluid focusing/mixing locations, while three-dimensional models examine several different cases of fault underlap and overlap. The results show that fault-dilation and faulting-induced permeability enhancement, which are closely associated with tensile failure, represent important ways to generate fluid flow conduits for more effective fluid flow and mixing. Dilation during strike-slip faulting is localized near fault tips (wing crack locations) and jog sites, where fluids are strongly focused and mixed. These locations are the tensile domains of the strike-slip regime. In overlapping-fault (dilatant jog) cases, the magnitude of dilation and the extent of the dilatant region are closely related to the extent of fault overlap. These results provide insight into the transport of fluids through low-permeability rocks with isolated, but more permeable, faults. Gold and quartz precipitation patterns as a result of the coupling of chemical reactions to deformation induced fluid flow velocities are also computed. The rates of precipitation depend on structural and fluid flow conditions and on the geometrical relation between local fluid velocity and chemical concentration gradients generated by mixing. Maximum precipitation rates for gold occur in the dilation zones and in faults where high fluid flow rates, sufficient fluid mixing and high concentration gradients of critical chemical species are all present, while the quartz precipitation rate is predominantly controlled, in this isothermal situation, by the rate of fluid flow across concentration gradients in the aqueous silica concentration.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Internal Structure of Fault Zones - Implications for Mechanical and Fluid-Flow Properties
EditorsC.A.J. Wibberley, W. Kurz, J. Imber, R.E. Holdsworth, C. Collettini
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sep 2008
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameGeological Society Special Publication
ISSN (Print)0305-8719


Dive into the research topics of 'Fault-related dilation, permeability enhancement, fluid flow and mineral precipitation patterns: Numerical models'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this