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  • Publication
    Variability in the three-dimensional geometry of segmented normal fault surfaces
    Normal faults are often complex three-dimensional structures comprising multiple sub-parallel segments separated by intact or breached relay zones. Relay zones are classified according to whether they step in the strike or dip direction and whether the relay zone-bounding fault segments are unconnected in 3D or bifurcate from a single surface. Complex fault surface geometry is described in terms of the relative numbers of different types of relay zones to allow comparison of fault geometry between different faults and different geological settings. A large database of fault surfaces compiled primarily from mapping 3D seismic reflection surveys and classified according to this scheme, reveals the diversity of 3D fault geometry. Analysis demonstrates that mapped fault geometries depend on geological controls, primarily the heterogeneity of the faulted sequence and the presence of a pre-existing structure, as well as on resolution limits and biases in fault mapping from seismic data. Where a significant number of relay zones are mapped on a single fault, a wide variety of relay zone geometries occurs, demonstrating that individual faults can comprise segments that are both bifurcating and unconnected in three dimensions.
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