Frictional Properties of Simulated Fault Gouges from the Seismogenic Groningen Gas Field Under In Situ P–T -Chemical Conditions

L.B. Hunfeld*, A.R. Niemeijer, C.J. Spiers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We investigated the frictional properties of simulated fault gouges derived from the main lithologies present in the seismogenic Groningen gas field (NE Netherlands), employing in situ P–T conditions and varying pore fluid salinity. Direct shear experiments were performed on gouges prepared from the Carboniferous shale/siltstone substrate, the Upper Rotliegend Slochteren sandstone reservoir, the overlying Ten Boer claystone, and the Basal Zechstein anhydrite–carbonate caprock, at 100°C, 40 MPa effective normal stress, and sliding velocities of 0.1–10 μm/s. As pore fluids, we used pure water, 0.5–6.2 M NaCl solutions, and a 6.9 M mixed chloride brine mimicking the formation fluid. Our results show a marked mechanical stratigraphy, with a maximum friction coefficient (μ) of ~0.66 for the Basal Zechstein, a minimum of ~0.37 for the Ten Boer claystone, ~0.6 for the reservoir sandstone, and ~0.5 for the Carboniferous. Mixed gouges showed intermediate μ values. Pore fluid salinity had no effect on frictional strength. Most gouges showed velocity-strengthening behavior, with little systematic effect of pore fluid salinity or sliding velocity on (a–b). However, Basal Zechstein gouge showed velocity weakening at low salinities and/or sliding velocities, as did 50:50 mixtures with sandstone gouge, tested with the 6.9 M reservoir brine. From a rate and state friction viewpoint, our results imply that faults incorporating Basal Zechstein anhydrite–carbonate material at the top of the reservoir are the most prone to accelerating slip, that is, have the highest seismogenic potential. The results are equally relevant to other Rotliegend fields in the Netherlands and N. Sea region and to similar sequences globally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8969-8989
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017


  • frictional properties
  • Groningen gas field
  • induced seismicity
  • simulated fault gouge


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