Episodic fluid flow in the Nankai accretionary complex: Timescale, geochemistry, flow rates, and fluid budget

Demian M. Saffer, Barbara A. Bekins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

146 Scopus citations


Down-hole geochemical anomalies encountered in active accretionary systems can be used to constrain the timing, rates, and localization of fluid flow. Here we combine a coupled flow and solute transport model with a kinetic model for smectite dehydration to better understand and quantify fluid flow in the Nankai accretionary complex offshore of Japan. Compaction of sediments and clay dehydration provide fluid sources which drive the model flow system. We explicitly include the consolidation rate of underthrust sediments in our calculations to evaluate the impact that variations in this unknown quantity have on pressure and chloride distribution. Sensitivity analysis of steady state pressure solutions constrains bulk and flow conduit permeabilities. Steady state simulations with 30% smectite in the incoming sedimentary sequence result in minimum chloride concentrations at site 808 of 550 mM, but measured chlorinity is as low as 447 mM. We simulate the transient effects of hydrofracture or a strain event by assuming an instantaneous permeability increase of 3-4 orders of magnitude along a flow conduit (in this case the décollement), using steady state results as initial conditions. Transient results with an increase in décollement permeability from 10-16 m2 to 10-13 m2 and 20% smectite reproduce the observed chloride profile at site 808 after 80-160 kyr. Modeled chloride concentrations are highly sensitive to the consolidation rate of underthrust sediments, such that rapid compaction of underthrust material leads to increased freshening. Pressures within the décollement during transient simulations rise rapidly to a significant fraction of lithostatic and remain high for at least 160 kyr, providing a mechanism for maintaining high permeability. Flow rates at the deformation front for transient simulations are in good agreement with direct measurements, but steady state flow rates are 2-3 orders of magnitude smaller than observed. Fluid budget calculations indicate that nearly 71% of the incoming water in the sediments leaves the accretionary wedge via diffuse flow out the seafloor, 0-5% escapes by focused flow along the décollement, and roughly 1% is subducted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number98JB01983
Pages (from-to)30351-30370
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue numberB12
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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