Quantitative geometric description of fracture systems in an andesite lava flow using terrestrial laser scanner data
McNamara, David D.
Conway, Chris E.
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Massiot, Cécile, Nicol, Andrew, Townend, John, McNamara, David D., Garcia-Sellés, David, Conway, Chris E., & Archibald, Garth. (2017). Quantitative geometric description of fracture systems in an andesite lava flow using terrestrial laser scanner data. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 341, 315-331. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2017.05.036
Permeability hosted in andesitic lava flows is dominantly controlled by fracture systems, with geometries that are often poorly constrained. This paper explores the fracture system geometry of an andesitic lava flow formed during its emplacement and cooling over gentle paleo-topography, on the active Ruapehu volcano, New Zealand. The fracture system comprises column-forming and platy fractures within the blocky interior of the lava flow, bounded by autobreccias partially observed at the base and top of the outcrop. We use a terrestrial laser scanner (TLS) dataset to extract column-forming fractures directly from the point-cloud shape over an outcrop area of ∼3090 m2. Fracture processing is validated using manual scanlines and high-resolution panoramic photographs. Column-forming fractures are either steeply or gently dipping with no preferred strike orientation. Geometric analysis of fractures derived from the TLS, in combination with virtual scanlines and trace maps, reveals that: (1) steeply dipping column-forming fracture lengths follow a scale-dependent exponential or log-normal distribution rather than a scale-independent power-law; (2) fracture intensities (combining density and size) vary throughout the blocky zone but have similar mean values up and along the lava flow; and (3) the areal fracture intensity is higher in the autobreccia than in the blocky zone. The inter-connected fracture network has a connected porosity of ∼0.5 % that promote fluid flow vertically and laterally within the blocky zone, and is partially connected to the autobreccias. Autobreccias may act either as lateral permeability connections or barriers in reservoirs, depending on burial and alteration history. A discrete fracture network model generated from these geometrical parameters yields a highly connected fracture network, consistent with outcrop observations.