Mineralogy and Petrology

, Volume 113, Issue 4, pp 493–504 | Cite as

Effect of interaction between fluid and fault zone on triggering earthquakes in the shallow crust

  • Lifen ZhangEmail author
  • Wulin Liao
  • Yunsheng Yao
  • Jinggang Li
Original Paper


Reservoir induced seismicity provides a suitable method for studying the roles of fluid in inducing earthquakes. The fault structure plays a predominant role in the occurrences of earthquakes, and the influences of fluid also cannot be disregarded. In this study, we investigate the active Fairy Mount fault in the Three Gorges Reservoir. Since water impoundment in 2003, more than 4000 detectable earthquakes have occurred along the fault. The vast majority of these earthquakes are associated with the fault and water impoundment. To explore the effects of water-fault interactions on induced earthquakes, a permeability structure of the fault zone is established by a series of geological experiments. Fault rocks, including unconsolidated breccias and fault gouges, collected from a presentative outcrop are employed for detailed microstructural and mineralogical analyses. The results reveal a complex internal fault structure and widespread fluid-rock interactions. The hydrogeological property of the fault exhibits a typical conduit/barrier permeability structure. Highly permeable damage zones act as fluid conduits for the infiltration of reservoir water to the subsurface, while the low permeable fault core renders the fault core as a potential fluids storage area to weaken the fault in the shallow crust. In sum, both the pore pressure changes due to water infiltration and the long-term chemical effect of water on the fault plane promote instability of the fault and induce earthquakes.


Three gorges reservoir Induced earthquake Internal fault structure Permeability structure 



We would like to thank editor and the anonymous reviewers for the improvement of the article. We also would like to thank Prof. Yongsheng Zhou, Prof. Jing He, Dr. Yann Zhao and Dr. Yueqiang Qiao for their good suggestion. This work was financially supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (41772384,41572354), Science for Earthquake Resilience (XH19030) and Scientific Research Fund of Institute of Seismology and Institute of Crustal dynamics, China Earthquake Administration (IS201616254).


  1. Alt RC, Zoback MD (2017) In situ stress and active faulting in Oklahoma. Bull Seismol Soc Am 107(1):216–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bense VF, Gleeson T, Loveless SE, Bour O, Scibek J (2013) Fault zone hydrogeology. Earth-Sci Rev 127:171–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Billi A, Salvini F, Storti F (2003) The damage zone-fault core transition in carbonate rocks: implications for fault growth, structure and permeability. J Struct Geol 25(11):1779–1794CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Caine JS, Evans JP, Forster CB (1996) Fault zone architecture and permeability structure. Geology 24(11):1025–1028CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chen LY, Talwani P (1998) Reservoir-induced sesimicity in China. Pure Appl Geophys 153(1):133–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chen SJ, Su AJ, Luo DG (2004) Genesis and type of induced earthquake in Three Gorges reservoir. J Geod Geodyn 2:70–74Google Scholar
  7. Chen R (2009) Did the reservoir impoundment trigger the Wenchuan earthquake? Sci China Ser D-Earth Sci 52:431–433CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chen JY, Yang XS, Ma SL, Spiers CJ (2013) Mass removal and clay mineral dehydration/rehydration in carbonate-rich surface outcrops of the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake fault: geochemical evidence and implications for fault zone evolution and coseismic slip. J Geophys Res Solid Earth 118:474–496CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Duan Q, Yang X, Chen J (2017) Hydraulic properties of a low permeable rupture zone on the Yingxiu-Beichuan Fault activated during the Wenchuan earthquake, China: Implications for fluid conduction, fault sealing, and dynamic weakening mechanisms. Tectonophysics 721:123–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. El Hariri M, Abercrombie RA, Rowe CA, do Nascimento AF (2010) The role of fluids in triggering earthquakes: observations from reservoir induced seismicity in Brazil. Geophys J Int 181(3):1566–1574Google Scholar
  11. Ellsworth WE (2013) Injection-induced earthquakes. Science 341(6142):1225942CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Evans JP, Forster CB, Goddard JV (1997) Permeabilities of fault-related rocks and implications for fault-zone hydraulic structure. J Struct Geol 19(11):1393–1404CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Faulkner D, Jackson C, Lunn R, Schlische R, Shipton Z, Wibberley C, Withjack M (2010) A review of recent developments concerning the structure, mechanics and fluid flow properties of fault zones. J Struct Geol 32:1557–1575CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Folk RL (1951) A comparison chart for visual percentage estimation. J Sediment Petrol 21(1):32–33Google Scholar
  15. Gahalaut K, Hassoup A (2012) Role of fluids in the earthquake occurrence around Aswan reservoir, Egypt. J Geophys Res 117:B02303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ganerod GV, Braathen A, Willemoeswissing B (2008) Predictive permeability model of extensional faults in crystalline and metamorphic rocks; verification by pre-grouting in two sub-sea tunnels, Norway. J Struct Geol 30(8):993–1004CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gillian RF, Miles W, Gluyas J, Bruce RJ, Richard D (2018) Global review of human-induced earthquakes. Earth-Sci Rev 178:438–514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Goddard JV, Evans JP (1995) Chemical changes and fluid-rock interaction in faults of crystalline thrust sheets, northwestern Wyoming, USA. J Struct Geol 17:533–547CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gough DI, Gough WI (1970) Stress and deflection in the lithosphere near Lake Kariba. Geophys J Int 21:65–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Grigoli F, Cesca S, Priolo E, Rinaldi AP, Clinton JF, Stabile TA, Dost B, Fernandez MG, Wiemer S, Dahm T (2017) Current challenges in monitoring, discrimination, and management of induced seismicity related to underground industrial activities: a European perspective. Rev Geophys 55(2):310–340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gupta HK, Rastogi BK (1976) Dams and Earthquakes. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 1–229Google Scholar
  22. Gupta HK (2002) A review of recent studies of triggered earthquakes by artificial water reservoirs with special emphasis on earthquakes in Koyna, India. Earth-Sci Rev 58(3/4):279–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hua W, Zheng SH, Yan CQ, Chen ZL (2013) Attenuation, site effects, and source parameters in the Three Gorges reservoir area, China. Bull Seismol Soc Am 103:371–382Google Scholar
  24. Jiang HK, Song J, Wu Q (2012) Quantitative investigation of fluid triggering on seismicity in the Three Gorges reservoir area based on ETAS model. Chinese J Geophys 55(7):2341–2352 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  25. Kundu B, Vissa NK, Gahalaut VK (2015) Influence of anthropogenic groundwater unloading in Indo-Gangetic plains on the 25 April 2015 Mw 7.8 Gorkha, Nepal earthquake. Geophys Res Lett 42:10607–10613CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lawther SE, Dempster TJ, Shipton ZK, Boyce AJ (2016) Effective crustal permeability controls fault evolution: an integrated structural, mineralogical and isotopic study in granitic gneiss, Monte Rosa, northern Italy. Tectonophysics 690:160–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lei XL, Yu G, Ma S, Wen X, Wang Q (2008) Earthquakes induced by water injection at ~3 km depth within the Rongchang gasfield, Chongqing, China. J Geophys Res 113:B10310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lei X, Tamagawa T, Tezuka K, Takahashi M (2011) Role of drainage conditions in deformation and fracture of porous rocks under triaxial compression in the laboratory. Geophys Res Lett 38(24):L24310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lei X, Ma S, Chen W, Pang C, Zeng J, Jiang B (2013) A detailed view of the injection-induced seismicity in a natural gas reservoir in Zigong, southwestern Sichuan Basin, China. J Geophys Res 118(8):4296–4311CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Li Q, Zhao X, Cai JA, Liu RF, Long GH, AN YR (2009) P wave velocity structure of upper crust in Three Gorges Reservoir region of the Yangtze River. Sci China Ser D-Earth Sci 39(4):427–436Google Scholar
  31. Liu YW, Xu LQ, Yang DX (2011) Pore pressure diffusion characteristics of Longtan reservoir-induced-earthquake. Chin J Geophys 54(4):1028–1037 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  32. Luo JH, Ma HT (2016) A preliminary study on upper crustal velocity structure in the Three Gorges reservoir area. Seismology and Geology 38(2):329–334 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  33. Masuda K, Nishizawa O, Kusunose K, Satoh T, Takahashi M (1990) Positive feedback fracture process induced by nonuniform high-pressure water flow in dilatant granite. J Geophys Res 95(B13):21583–21592CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ming X, Liu L, Yu M, Bai H, Yu L, Peng X, Yang T (2016) Bleached mudstone, iron concretions and calcite veins: A natural analogue for the effects of reducing CO2-bearing fluids on iron migration and mineralization, sealing properties and composition of mudstone cap rocks. Geofluids 16(5):1017–1042CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Morrow C, Shi LQ, Byerlee J (1981) Permeability and strength of San Andreas fault gouge under high pressure. Geophys Res Lett 8(4):325–328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nascimento AF, Lunn RJ, Cowie PA (2004) Numerical modelling of pore-pressure diffusion in a reservoir-induced seismicity site in northeast Brazil. Geophys J Int 160(1):249–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Nur A, Booker JR (1972) Aftershocks caused by pore fluid flow? Science 175:885–887CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Roeloffs E (1988) Fault stability changes induced beneath a reservoir with cyclic variations in water level. J Geophys Res 93:2107–2124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Schloz CH, Sykes LR, Aggarwl YP (1973) Earthquake prediction: A physical basis. Science 181:803–810CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Sibson RH (1977) Fault rocks and fault mechanisms. J Geol Soc 133:191–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Talwani P, Acree S (1985) Pore Pressure Diffusion and the Mechanism of Reservoir-induced Seismicity. Pure Appl Geophys 122:947–965CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Tao W, Masterlark T, Shen Z, Ronchin E (2015) Impoundment of the Zipingpu reservoir and triggering of the 2008 Mw 7.9 Wenchuan earthquake, China. J Geophys Res 120(10):7033–7047CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Whitney DL, Evans BW (2010) Abbreviations for names of rock-forming minerals. Am Mineral 95:185–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wibberley CA, Shimamoto T (2002) Internal structure and permeability of major strike-slip fault zones: the Median Tectonic Line in Mie Prefecture, Southwest Japan. J Struct Geol 25:59–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Yao YS, Wang QL, Liao WL, Zhang LF, Chen JH, Li JG, Yuan L, Zhao YN (2017) Influences of the Three Gorges project on seismic activities in the reservoir area. Sci Bull 62:1089–1098CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Yi LX, D Z, CL L (2012) Preliminary study of reservoir-induced seismicity in the Three Gorges reservoir, China. Seismol Res Lett 83(5):806–814CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Zhang LF, Li JG, Sun XD, Liao WL, Zhao YN, Wei GC, He CF (2018) A possible mechanism of reservoir-induced earthquakes in the Three Gorges Reservoir, central China. Bull Seismol Soc Am 108(5B):3016–3028CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Zhang LF, Lei XL, Liao WL, Li JG, Yao YS (2019) Statistical parameters of seismicity induced by the impoundment of the Three Gorges Reservoir, Central China. Tectonophysics 751:13–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Zhou B, Xue SF, Deng ZH, Sun F, Jiang HK (2010) Relationship between the evolution of reservoir-induced seismicity in space-time and the process of reservoir water body load-unloading and water infiltration—a case study of Zipingpu reservoir. Chin J Geophys 53(11):2651–2670Google Scholar
  50. Zhou LQ, Zhao CP, Luo J, Chen ZL (2018) A detailed insight into fluid infiltration in the Three Gorges reservoir Area, China, from 3DVP, VP/VS, QP and QS Tomography. Bull Seismol Soc Am 108(5B):3029–3045CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Earthquake Geodesy, Institute of SeismologyChina Earthquake AdministrationWuhanChina
  2. 2.Institute of Disaster PreventionSanheChina

Personalised recommendations