The effect of fault relay and clay smearing on groundwater flow patterns in the Lower Rhine Embayment

Victor F. Bense, Ronald T. Van Balen

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61 Citations (Scopus)


Faults strongly impact groundwater flow in the unconsolidated sediments of the Lower Rhine Embayment. Hydraulic head maps show that many individual faults form a barrier to fluid flow whereas relay structures in these faults are sites of hydraulic contact between otherwise separated aquifers. The fluid flow patterns around the Rurrand Fault close to the largest open-pit mine in the Lower Rhine Embayment is one of the first well-documented examples of fluid flow around a fault relay zone. The effect of clay smearing could be quantified using the Shale Gouge Ratio (SGR) method that is common in hydrocarbon-related studies but has not been applied to groundwater flow data so far. The effect of fault relay zones on groundwater flow is analysed using numerical simulations. It is concluded that fault relay needs special consideration in the evaluation of the sealing capacities of faults in sedimentary basins. Moreover, it is demonstrated that the SGR methodology is a promising tool for the estimation of fault zone hydraulic properties in hydrogeological modelling.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397-411
Number of pages15
JournalBasin Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2004

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