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Time-resolved grain-scale 3D imaging of hydrofracturing in halite layers induced by gypsum dehydration and pore fluid pressure buildup

DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2020.116679 DOI Help

Authors: S. Marti (The University of Edinburgh) , F. Fusseis (The University of Edinburgh) , I. B. Butler (The University of Edinburgh) , C. Schlep├╝tz (Swiss Light Source) , F. Marone (Swiss Light Source) , J. Gilgannon (University of Bern) , R. Kilian (Martin-Luther-Universit├Ąt Halle-Wittenberg) , Y. Yang (he University of Edinburgh)
Co-authored by industrial partner: No

Type: Journal Paper
Journal: Earth And Planetary Science Letters , VOL 554

State: Published (Approved)
Published: December 2020
Diamond Proposal Number(s): 22178

Abstract: Fluid release from dehydration reactions is considered to have significant effects on the strength and dynamics of tectonic faults at convergent plate boundaries. It is classically assumed that the production of fluid leads to increased pore fluid pressures that perturb a fault's stress state and thereby facilitates and enhances deformation. This important assumption has never been supported by direct microstructural observations. Here, we investigate the role of gypsum dehydration in the deformation of evaporitic rocks using synchrotron-based time-resolved X-ray computed microtomography (4D) imaging. This approach enables the documentation of coupled chemical, hydraulic and mechanical processes on the grain scale. In our experiments with deforming halite-gypsum-halite sandwiches we observe that the fluid released by dehydrating gypsum accumulates at the gypsum-halite interface before a distributed hydraulic failure of the halite layer drains the fluid. From our observations we conclude that perceivedly impermeable halite layers in evaporites are unlikely to trap overpressured fluid, e.g., in thin-skinned tectonic detachment horizons. Moreover, as the hydraulic failure is diffuse and not localized, our experiments suggest that dehydration reactions alone may not explain intermediate depth seismicity in subduction zones. Our data demonstrate the significant potential that in-situ 4D imaging has for the grain-scale investigation of fundamental tectonic processes.

Journal Keywords: gypsum dehydration; evaporite deformation; 4D micro tomography; dehydration reaction causing hydraulic fracturing

Subject Areas: Earth Science

Instruments: I12-JEEP: Joint Engineering, Environmental and Processing

Other Facilities: TOMCAT beamline at Swiss Light Source; Advanced Photon Source