Impact of fluid pressure on failure mode in shear zones: Numerical simulation of en-echelon tensile fracturing and transition to shear

Atsushi Okamoto, Kazumasa Fuse, Hiroyuki Shimizu, Takatoshi Ito

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

En-echelon veins are a set of tensile fractures that develop during the initiation of shear zones under certain conditions, but factors that control fracture patterns remain unclear. In this study, we performed numerical simulations using the two-dimensional distinct element method to understand the influence of effective normal stress on the development of fractures during shear deformation. At low effective normal stress (10 MPa), dilation takes place at an angle of ≈40°–45° to the shear boundary, and en-echelon arrays of tensile fractures develop. In contrast, at high effective normal stress (150 MPa), en-echelon veins are not developed, but a distinct shear plane forms. A transient behavior characterizes intermediate effective normal stress (≈50 MPa): early tensile cracks are generated and then propagate to form larger brittle faults. In this case, the larger strain energy released in the later stage is due to the greater shear strength. Under crustal conditions, effective normal stress varies, due to the change in fluid pressure. Our results suggest that en-echelon veins are indicators of high fluid pressure, close to lithostatic conditions, i.e. effective normal stress close to zero, and that a transition of the failure mode from tensile to shear could occur in response to a dynamic change of fluid pressure during fracturing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number228277
JournalTectonophysics
Volume774
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jan 5

Keywords

  • Distinct element method
  • Effective normal stress
  • En-echelon vein
  • Failure mode
  • Fluid pressure
  • Shear deformation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth-Surface Processes

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