Frictional Stability of Metamorphic Epidote in Granitoid Faults Under Hydrothermal Conditions and Implications for Injection-Induced Seismicity

Mengke An, Fengshou Zhang, Ki Bok Min, Derek Elsworth, Changrong He, Luanxiao Zhao

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10 Scopus citations


The presence of metamorphic epidote on faults has been implicated in the transition from stable to unstable slip and the nucleation of earthquakes. We present structured laboratory observations of mixed epidote and simulated Pohang granodiorite (analogous to the EGS-enhanced geothermal system site) gouges to evaluate the impact of heterogeneity and contiguity of epidote-patch structure on frictional instability. Experiments are at a confining pressure of 110 MPa, pore fluid pressures of 42–63 MPa, temperatures 100–250°C and epidote percentages of 0–100 vol.%. The simulated Pohang granodiorite gouge is frictionally strong (friction coefficient ∼0.71) but transits from velocity-strengthening to velocity-weakening at temperatures >150°C. This velocity-weakening effect is amplified in approximate proportion to increasing epidote content. Modes of epidote precipitation likely control the size and contiguity of the epidote-only patches and this in turn changes the response of 50:50 epidote-granodiorite mixed gouges for different geometric configurations. However, 50:50 epidote-granodiorite mixtures that are variously homogeneously mixed, encapsulated and checkerboarded in their structures are insensitive to their geometries – all reflect the high frictional strength and strong velocity-weakening response of 100:0 pure epidote. This suggests that the epidote present as thin coatings on fractures/faults can enhance velocity-weakening behavior, independent of individual patch size and can thereby support the potential seismic reactivation of faults. Considering the frictional and stability properties of epidote at conditions typical of shallow depths, the presence of low-grade metamorphism exerts a potentially important control on fault stability in granitoids with relevance as a marker mineral for susceptibility to injection-induced seismicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021JB023136
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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