Red Bar

Faults & Fractures in Carbonates


Red Bar





Project coordinator: Emanuele Tondi

Department of Earth Sciences, University of Camerino, Italy. Tel. (+39) 0737402619; Fax: (+39) 0737 402644; E-mail:

Ivo Giano, Marcello Schiattarella, UNIVERSITY OF BASILICATA
Fabrizio Agosta, Chiara Invernizzi, UNIVERSITY OF CAMERINO

Ph.D. students: Antonino Cilona, Andrea Rustichelli


Carbonate rocks such as grainstones, limestones, and dolomites form widespread reservoirs of geofluids (i.e. water, gas and oil). A good understanding of the processes of fracture and fault nucleation and growth is crucial for evaluating the hydraulic behaviour of deformed carbonate rocks. An opportunity to investigate these processes is provided by the fractured and faulted carbonate sequences pertaining to the Apenninic and Apulian platforms, in peninsular Italy. There, we focus on the large-scale characterization of the geometrical arrangement and deformation history of the Apennine thrust belt, and small-scale study of fault zones in carbonate rocks. The detailed analysis of faults and fault-related structural elements is carried out by both field and and laboratory investigations.

The field work is focused on the characterization of the structural setting of the studies areas, and on the evaluation of both spatial and dimensional properties of the outcropping discontinuities (pressure solutions, joints, veins, slip surfaces, etc.). Laboratory analyses is aimed at assessing mineralogy, porosity, pore structure, permeability, and capillary pressure of the fault components analogous to intra-reservoir structures. The above information are use to: (i) define the kinematic behavior, as well as the timing of evolution, of the different fracture and fault types; (ii) build up a database relative to fault length, thickness, offset, fractal dimension, and to derive the appropriate scale relations among fault attributes; (iii) assess the architecture and petrophysical properties of faults that developed at different P-T conditions during the various evolutionary stages of the Apennines; (iv) recognize fault-bounded compartments with distinctive permeability structure and variable hydro-mechanical behavior; (v) build appropriate conceptual and numerical models of fault development in carbonate rocks for fluid flow simulations (using software such as FRACMAN, SURE, PetraSim, RC2, etc.).

The goal of this project is to decipher and quantify the anisotropy imparted to fluid flow, upscaled at the aquifer/reservoir fluid flow simulations level, by different fault architectures and fractures domains in carbonate rocks. The results are presented at international Meetings and published in scientific journals. Moreover, workshops and field excursions open to experts of the affiliates Oil Companies are yearly organized.


It is expected that the project will be funded by a Consortium of Oil Companies. The financial support of each Company will be in the order of 25.000 Euro per year, guaranteed at least for two years. During the project, 5 days per year consultancy to each Oil Company will also be supplied.



Shell Italia E&P, Rome, Italy


Total Italia E&P, Rome, Italy


Agosta, F., and Aydin, A., 2006. Architecture and deformation mechanism of a basin-bounding normal fault in Mesozoic platform carbonates, Central Italy, Journal of Structural Geology, 28, 1445-1467.

Agosta, F., Prasad, M., and Aydin, A., 2007. Rock Physical and hydraulic properties of carbonate fault rocks, Fucino basin, central Italy, Geofluids, doi:10.111/j.1468-8123.2006.00158.x.

Antonellini, M., Tondi, E., Agosta, F., Aydin, A., and Cello, G. 2007. Failure modes in basinal carbonates deposits: a case study from the Majella mountain area (central Apennines, Italy). Marine of Petroleum Geology, doi:10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2007.10.008.

Florez-Nino, J.M., Aydin, A., Mavko, G., Antonellini, M., Ayaviri, A. 2005. Fault and fracture systems in a fold and thrust belt: An example from Bolivia. AAPG Bulletin 89 (4), 471-493.

Marchegiani, L., Van Dijk J. P., Gillespie P. A., Tondi E., Cello G. 2006. Scaling properties of the dimensional and spatial characteristics of fault and fracture systems in the Majella Mountain, central Italy. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 261, 113-131.

Mattioni, L., Tondi, E., Shiner, P., Renda, P., Vitale, S., Cello, G. 2006. The Argille Varicolori unit in Lucania (Italy): a record of tectonic offscraping and gravity sliding in the Mesozoic-Tertiary Lagonegro Basin, southern Apennines. Geological Society, London, Special Pubblications, 262, 277-288.

Micarelli, L., Benedicto, A, Invernizzi, C., Saint-Bezar, B., Michelot, J.L., Vergely, P. 2005. Influence of P/T conditions on the style of normal fault initiation and growth in limestones from the SE-Basin, France. Journal of Structural Geology, 27, 1577-1598.

Spina, V., Tondi, E., Galli, P., Critelli, S., Cello, G. 2006. Kinematics and structural properties of an active fault system: the Lakes Fault (northern Calabria, Italy). Bollettino della SocietÓ Geologica Italiana. In press.

Schiattarella, M., Beneduce, P., Di Leo, P., Giano, S.I., Giannandrea, P., Principe, C. 2005. Structural setting and Quaternary morphotectonic evolution of Monte Vulture Volcano, southern Apennines, Italy. Bollettino della Societa Geologica Italiana 124 (3): 543-562.

Tondi, E., L. Piccardi, S. Cacon, B. Kontny, G. Cello A. 2005. Structural and time constraints for dextral shear along the seismogenic Mattinata Fault (Gargano, southern Italy). Journal of Geodynamics, 40, 134-152.

Tondi, E, Zampieri, D., Giunta, G., Renda, P., Unti, M., Cello, G. 2006 Active faults and inferred seismic sources in the San Vito lo Capo peninsula, north-western Sicily, Italy. Geological Society, London, Special Pubblications. 262, 365-377.

Tondi, E., Antonellini, M., Aydin, A., Marchegiani, L., Cello, G. 2006. Interaction between deformation bands and stylolites in fault development in carbonate grainstones of Majella Mountain, Italy. Journal of Structural Geology, 28, 376-391.

Tondi, E., 2007. Nucleation, development and petrophysical properties of faults in carbonate grainstones: evidence from the San Vito Lo Capo peninsula (Sicily, Italy). Journal of Structural Geology, 29 (4), 614-628.

Spina, V., Tondi, E., Galli, P., Mazzoli, S., Cello, G. 2008. Quaternary fault segmentation and interaction in the epicentral area of the 1561 earthquake (Mw=6.4), Vallo di Diano, southern Apennines, Italy. Tectonophysics, 453, 233-245.

Antonellini, M., Tondi, E., Agosta, F., Aydin, A., and Cello, G. 2008. Failure modes in deep-water carbonates and their impact for fault development: Majella Mountain, Central Apennines, Italy. Marine and Petroleum Geology, 25 (10), 1074-1096.

Aydin, A., Antonellini, M., Tondi, E., Agosta, F. 2009. Deformation along the leading edge of the Majella thrust sheet, Fara San Martino, central Italy. Journal of Structural Geology. 2009; doi: 10.1016/j.jsg.2008.10.005.

Agosta, F., Alessandroni, M., Tondi, E., Aydin, A. 2009. Nucleation and development of normal and strike-slip faults along the northern edge of the Majella mountain, central Italy. Journal of Structural Geology 31, 774-690.

Spina, V., Tondi, E., Galli, P., Mazzoli, S. 2009. Faults growth and interaction in a seismic gap area: implications for the seismic hazards of the Calabrian-Lucania border (southern Italy). Tectonophysics, doi:10.1016/j.tecto.2009.02.001.

Agosta, F., Alessandroni, M., Tondi, E., Giorgioni, M. 2010. From fractures to flow: A field-based quantitative analysis of an outcropping carbonate reservoir. Tectonophysics 490, 197-213.

Spina, V., Tondi, E., Mazzoli, S. 2010. Complex basin development in a wrench-dominated back-arc area: Tectonic evolution of the Crati Basin, Calabria, Italy. Journal of Geodynamics, doi:10.1016/j.jog.2010.05.003.


1. Failure modes in platform and basinal carbonates, and their role in the fault development

We focus on the different failure modes, and the processes of fault nucleation and growth in carbonate rocks. In particular, we are investigating the slope-basinal sequence of marls and carbonate grainstones of the Majella Mountain (central Italy), and the massive platform carbonates of the Murge Plateau (southern Italy). These field sites are in the structured Apennines belt, and in the foreland domains, respectively.

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Cross-sectional view of fractures in slope carbonates, Majella Mountain.

Cross-section of a normally sheared stylolite in slope carbonates, Majella Mountain.

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Top view of small, strike-slip faults in platform carbonates, Murge plateau.

Cross-sectional view of large strike-slip faults in platform carbonates, Murge plateau.

2. Nucleation, development and petrophysical properties of deformation bands in pourous carbonate grainstones.

This research aims to document the deformation processes occurred in the porous, Upper Pliocene-Lower Pleistocene carbonate grainstones of Favignana Island (Sicily, Italy). Fault development in several types of porous carbonate grainstones will be accomplished by detailed field mapping, thin section observations, petrophysical and image analyses.

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Normal fault in Cala Rossa Quarry, Favignana.

Cross-sectional view of deformation bands, Favignana.

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Dextral, strike-slip fault in Cala San Nicola, Favignana.

Top view of small strike-slip faults in Cala San Nicola, Favignana.

3. Structural control on the flow and accumulation of hydrocarbon in carbonates: learning a lesson from an analog reservoir.

The mechanisms that controls the fluid flow in fractured and faulted carbonates can be documented in the Valle Romana Quarry (Majella Mountain, Italy), where hydrocarbons in the form of tar are present in the Lower Miocene-Tortonian Bolognano Formation. Here, by integrating the results of field (detailed mapping and statistical analysis), laboratory (porosity, permeability, and capillary pressure), and well logs, the hydraulic behaviour of fractured carbonate grainstones will be assessed by fluid flow simulations.

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Tar sipping out from fractures.

Cross-sectional view of a tar-bearing normal fault.


Cross-sectional view of a large normal fault in the Valle Romana Quarry.

4. Neogene evolution and active tectonics of the central and southern Apennines

This study is mainly focused on the external areas of the orogenic system, and involve both the Central Apennines and the Southern end of the mountain belt, in the Campania-Lucania-Calabria sectors of the Apennines. The research project is designed to: (i) define the present-day structural setting; (ii) decipher the structural style and chronology of faulting; (iii) evaluate the tectonic control exerted by pre-orogenic faults; and (iv) interprete the deep structure of the thrust belt, through the construction of regional balanced and restored geological cross-sections.


Geological sketch map of the southern Apennines. A-A': trace of the regional cross-section.


Regional geological section across the southern Apennines; the location is shown in the previous figure.

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