Fracture patterns can provide insight into the strain history and stress evolution of deformed strata. In southern Alaska's Cook Inlet forearc basin, hydrocarbon traps are typically fault-cored anticlines, where fractures likely aid in the migration of hydrocarbons from lower Jurassic marine strata into Cenozoic non-marine deposits. Consequently, understanding the distribution and orientation of fracture sets with respect to these structures is necessary to improving the understanding of one of Alaska's largest petroleum provinces. Furthermore, recent refinements in understanding southern Alaska's Dynamic Cenozoic tectonic evolution allow us to interpret fractures in a regional tectonic context. Despite the important role fractures likely play in the Cook Inlet petroleum system, limited work exists linking fractures to regional tectonic events and structures. The objective of chapter one is to characterize from field and remote sensing observations the orientations, distributions, and relative ages of several regionally prominent fracture sets. Field observations focus on the area of the western Cook Inlet near Augustine Volcano, north to Tuxedni Bay. Remote sensing observations expand the study area from the Alaska Peninsula in the south to Mount Spurr in the north. I identified four fracture sets—with common orientations, opening modes, and relative ages—within the sedimentary sequence that spans early Jurassic to Miocene time in the Cook Inlet forearc basin. Within the field area, these sets fall into two structural domains: 1) the Iniskin Peninsula, site of an anticline--syncline pair and reverse slip on the SW-striking Bruin Bay fault; and 2) north of Chinitna Bay, where the Bruin Bay fault strikes ~N--S and preserves primarily sinistral displacement. Chapter two is aimed at quantifying the fracture intensity of the four regional fracture sets defined in Chapter 1, which are pervasive in deformed forearc basin strata of Jurassic age in the Iniskin--Tuxedni region of the lower Cook Inlet, Alaska. I document how fracture intensity changes between the four regionally identified fracture sets of chapter one. Analysis of fracture intensity indicates that changes in fracture intensity are guided by the opening of other fractures and grain size. I also measured fractures at the thin-section scale, via back-scattered electron microscopy, to test the feasibility of using micro fracture analysis to estimate macro fracture abundance. I conclude by discussing how natural fractures could enhance sub-surface permeability for the lower Cook Inlet hydrocarbon province; and serve as migration pathways in the lower and upper Cook Inlet petroleum systems.
Thesis (M.S.) University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2016
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