Faults and Fluid Flow

Faults can function as high permeability pathways that enhance subsurface fluid flow or as low permeability barriers that impede subsurface fluid flow, and as a consequence can exert a strong influence on flow and transport processes in faulted aquifers, petroleum reservoirs, and host rocks.
The Faults and Fluids Group began at New Mexico Tech in the 1990’s, but now includes faculty and students at the University of Wisconsin and University of Massachusetts as well.  By way of informal collaboration, we bring together expertise in structural geology, sedimentology, geomechanics, geochemistry, diagenesis, petrology, hydrology, and mathematical modeling to address the interrelationship between faults and fluid flow.

Our work is concentrated in several areas:


  • The role of faults as hydrogeologic units in unconsolidated alluvial aquifer systems along the Rio Grande rift. We are using a combination of detailed mapping of exhumed fault zones along the flanks of the rift, air permeameter studies of faulted basin-fill deposits, petrographic and geochemical studies fault rocks, and deterministic and stochastic modeling of flow and transport in faulted aquifer systems.
  • The role of fractures as in seal bypass
  • Influence of deformation band faults on reservoir performance
  • Seismic signatures and petrophysics of overpressured decollements in active accretionary prisms.
  • Basin evolution, groundwater flow and heat transport, and hydrofracture generation.


Former New Mexico Tech graduate student Mic Heynekamp mapped the distribution of calcite cement zones, elongated concretions, and deformational styles along the exhumed Sand Hill fault, which cuts poorly consolidated clastic sediments along the western margin of the Albuquerque Basin. The elongated concretions, which range from nearly vertical in the fault zone to horizontal in adjacent paleo aquifer units, are inferred to represent paleo groundwater flow directions through the fault zone
(see P.S. Mozley and L.B. Goodwin, 1995, Geology 23, 539-542).


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