Theoretical investigation of convective instability in inclined and fluid-saturated three-dimensional fault zones

Chongbin Zhao, B. E. Hobbs, A. Ord, Shenglin Peng, H. B. Mühlhaus, Liangming Liu

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71 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The convective instability of pore-fluid flow in inclined and fluid-saturated three-dimensional fault zones has been theoretically investigated in this paper. Due to the consideration of the inclined three-dimensional fault zone with any values of the inclined angle, it is impossible to use the conventional linear stability analysis method for deriving the critical condition (i.e., the critical Rayleigh number) which can be used to investigate the convective instability of the pore-fluid flow in an inclined three-dimensional fault zone system. To overcome this mathematical difficulty, a combination of the variable separation method and the integration elimination method has been used to derive the characteristic equation, which depends on the Rayleigh number and the inclined angle of the inclined three-dimensional fault zone. Using this characteristic equation, the critical Rayleigh number of the system can be numerically found as a function of the inclined angle of the three-dimensional fault zone. For a vertically oriented three-dimensional fault zone system, the critical Rayleigh number of the system can be explicitly derived from the characteristic equation. Comparison of the resulting critical Rayleigh number of the system with that previously derived in a vertically oriented one has demonstrated that the characteristic equation of the Rayleigh number is correct and useful for investigating the convective instability of pore-fluid flow in the inclined three-dimensional fault zone system. The related numerical results from this investigation have indicated that: (1) the convective pore-fluid flow may take place in the inclined three-dimensional fault zone; (2) if the height of the fault zone is used as the characteristic length of the system, a decrease in the inclined angle of the inclined fault zone stabilizes the three-dimensional fundamental convective flow in the inclined three-dimensional fault zone system; (3) if the thickness of the stratum is used as the characteristic length of the system, a decrease in the inclined angle of the inclined fault zone destabilizes the three-dimensional fundamental convective flow in the inclined three-dimensional fault zone system; and that (4) the shape of the inclined three-dimensional fault zone may affect the convective instability of pore-fluid flow in the system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-64
Number of pages18
JournalTectonophysics
Volume387
Issue number1-4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2004
Externally publishedYes

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