Field Studies: Structural Diagenesis

Outcrop-Based Structural Diagenesis Studies

Outcrop-based studies are a key part of the SDI program. Many M.S. thesis projects in our program contain a field component. Outcrops are in many cases the only way to measure key fracture attributes. Fracture length, for example, is not readily measured in the subsurface.

Field work a key part of the SDI program

Field work is a key part of the SDI program

But outcrops need to be used with care. Many outcrop fracture patterns are not representative of fractures existing in the subsurface. We identify suitable outcrops using structural diagenesis criteria. This assures that we investigate fractures that formed in the subsurface, and allows us to rigorously compare fractures in outcrop with those found in core.

Procedures for selecting outcrops and analyzing fractures in outcrop are outlined on the FRAC web site under Transfer Modules: Outcrops and in Laubach and Ward, 2006 and Lander and Laubach 2015 (see below).

The following papers highlight some of the areas we have worked. This is not an exhaustive list, but it does show some key areas where we’ve had a presence over several years.

Currently, student thesis and dissertation field work is underway in Western Canada, Wyoming (Tetons), Utah, Nevada, southern Argentina, New York, and Scotland.

See the Fault Diagenesis research tab for more information on SDI work on faults.

Field guides are available for many of these areas. Photographs from selected field expeditions can be found under the SD Field Symposium and Field Expeditions tabs. Contact us if you plan a field trip, we’re glad to help.

Selected Outcrop Study References

Texas | Outcrop

  • Gale, J. F. W., 2002 Specifying lengths of horizontal wells in fractured reservoirs: Society of Petroleum Engineers Reservoir Evaluation and Engineering, v. 5, no. 3, p. 266–272. (Includes Austin Chalk outcrop study)
  • Marrett, R., Ortega, O.O., and Kelsey, C., 1999, Power-law scaling of natural fractures in rock: Geology, v. 27, 799-802.

Western North America  | Outcrop

  • Eichhubl, Peter, and Flodin, E., 2005, Brittle deformation, fluid flow, and diagenesis in sandstone at Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada, in Pederson, J., and Dehler, C. M., eds., Interior Western United States: Geological Society of America Field Guides, v. 6, 151-167, doi: 10.1130/2005.fld006(07).
  • Hennings, P.H., Olson, J.E., and Thompson, L.B., 2000, Combining outcrop data and three-dimensional structural models to characterize fractured reservoirs: An example from Wyoming. AAPG Bulletin 84/6, 830-849. | AAPG Notable Paper
  • Ortega, O.O. and Marrett, R., 2000, Prediction of macrofracture properties using microfracture information, Mesaverde Group sandstones, San Juan Basin, New Mexico : Journal of Structural Geology, 22, 571-588.

Eastern U.S.  | Outcrop

  • Pommer, L., Gale, J.F.W., Eichhubl, P., Fall, A., Laubach, S.E., 2013, Using structural diagenesis to infer the timing of natural fractures in the Marcellus Shale. This paper was prepared for presentation at the Unconventional Resources Technology Conference held in Denver, Colorado, USA, 12-14 August 2013. URTeC Control ID 1580135 | request reprint
  • Gale, J.F., and Laubach, S.E., 2009, Natural fractures in the New Albany Shale and their importance for shale-gas production: 2009 International Coalbed & Shale Gas Symposium.
  • Laubach, S. E., 1988, Fractures generated during folding of the Palmerton Sandstone, eastern Pennsylvania: Journal of Geology, v. 96, no. 4, p. 495–503.  |  view at publisher

NE Mexico  | Outcrop

  • Ortega, O.J., Gale, J.F.W., Marrett, R., 2010, Quantifying diagenetic and stratigraphic controls on fracture intensity in platform carbonates: An example from the Sierra Madre Oriental, northeast Mexico, Journal of Structural Geology, v. 32, no. 12, p. 1943-1959. doi:10.1016/j.jsg.2010.07.004.
  • Laubach, S. E. and Ward, M. W., 2006, Diagenesis in porosity evolution of opening-mode fractures, Middle Triassic to Lower Jurassic La Boca Formation, NE Mexico. Tectonophysics 419, 75-97. | request reprint  | view at publisher
  • Hooker, J.N., Larson, T., Eakin, A., Laubach, S.E., Eichhubl, P., Fall, A., Marrett, R., 2015, Fracturing and fluid-flow in a sub-décollement sandstone; or, a leak in the basement. Journal of The Geological Society, London. v. 172, p. 428-442. doi: 10.1144/jsg2014-128. (Published online May 2015) | view at publisher
  • Marrett, R., ed., 2001, Genesis and controls of reservoir-scale carbonate deformation, Monterrey salient, Mexico : The University of Texas at Austin, Bureau of Economic Geology, Guidebook 28.

Western Canada  | Outcrop

  • Ukar et al. in review.
  • Gale, J. F. W., Laubach, S. E., Olson, J. E., Eichhubl, P., and Fall, A., 2014, Natural fractures in shale: a review and new observations. AAPG Bulletin, v. 98, no. 11, p. 2165-2216. doi: 10.1306/08121413151 (published November 2014) |  view at publisher | view at GSWview at Datapages

NW Scotland  | Outcrop

  • Laubach, S.E., Eichhubl, P. Hargrove, P., Ellis, M.A., Hooker, J.N., 2014, Fault core and damage zone fracture attributes vary along strike owing to interaction of fracture growth, quartz accumulation, and differing sandstone composition. Journal of Structural Geology, v. 68, Part A, 207-226. doi: 10.1016/j.jsg.2014.08.007 | view at publisher
  • Ellis, M.A., Laubach, S.E. Eichhubl, P., Olson, J.E. & Hargrove, P., 2012, Fracture development and diagenesis of Torridon Group Applecross Formation, near An Teallach, NW Scotland: millennia of brittle deformation resilience? Journal of the Geological Society, London. v. 169, no. 3, p. 297-310. doi: 10.1144/0016-76492011-086. | request reprint | view at GSW
  • Laubach, S.E. and Diaz-Tushman, K., 2009, Laurentian paleostress trajectories and ephemeral fracture permeability, Cambrian Eriboll Formation sandstones west of the Moine thrust zone, northwest Scotland. Journal of the Geological Society (London), v. 166, part 2, p. 349-362. | view at GSW

Argentina-Bolivia  | Outcrop

  • Iñigo, J.F., Laubach, S.E., Hooker, J.N., 2012, Fracture abundance and patterns in the Subandean fold and thrust belt, Devonian Huamampampa Formation petroleum reservoirs and outcrops, Argentina and Bolivia. Marine & Petroleum Geology, v. 35, no. 1, p. 201-218. doi:10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2012.01.010 | request reprint | view at publisher
  • Marrett, R., Allmendinger, R., Alonso, R., Drake, R., 1994, Late Cenozoic tectonic evolution of the Puna Plateau and adjacent foreland, northwestern Argentine Andes. Journal of South American Earth Sciences 7 (2), 179-207.

Outcrop Analysis Methods

  • Gomez, L. A., and Laubach, S. E, 2006, Rapid digital quantification of microfracture populations. Journal of Structural Geology, v. 28, 408-420. | view at publisher [Microfracture sampling and analysis methods]
  • Ortega, O. J., Marrett, R., and Laubach, S. E., 2006, A scale-independent approach to fracture intensity and average fracture spacing: AAPG Bulletin, v. 90, no. 2 (Feb. 2006), 193-208 . | AAPG Notable Paper | view at publisher [comparator and method for size analysis]
  • Laubach, S. E. and Ward, M. W., 2006, Diagenesis in porosity evolution of opening-mode fractures, Middle Triassic to Lower Jurassic La Boca Formation, NE Mexico. Tectonophysics 419, 75-97. | view at publisher  [outcrop selection criterion]
  • Lander R.H., and Laubach, S.E., 2015, Insights into rates of fracture growth and sealing from a model for quartz cementation in fractured sandstones. Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 127, no. 3-4, p. 516-538. doi: 10.1130/B31092.1 (published online October 2014) | view at publisher [rigorous comparison of outcrop and core]

Fault Rock Diagenesis and Fault Zone Attributes

Software and Methods | List of papers organized by topic

Information about the SEM CL Facility

Structural Diagenesis Initiative Main Page

Fracture Research and Application Consortium