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Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: Deep Fault Drilling: a journey through an active plate boundary

Currently Active: 

The Deep Fault Drilling Project (DFDP) aims to drill, sample and monitor the Alpine Fault, an active plate boundary, at depth to understand processes of rock deformation, seismogenesis and earthquake deformation. DFDP is a collaborative project led by New Zealand scientists. The first stage, DFDP1, was completed in February 2011 and drilling for DFDP2 is due to start in early 2014. Southampton scientists will conduct geochemical analysis of recovered rocks and fluids.

DFDP1a drill site with the distinctive green altered rocks of the Alpine Fault Zone surface trace in the background
DFDP1a drill site

The Alpine Fault

  • Marks the transpressional Pacific-Australian Plate Boundary through South Island, New Zealand.
  • Ruptures every 200-400 years in M~7.9 earthquakes, posing a significant geohazard.
  • Late in its seismic cycle - last ruptured in ~1717.
  • Rapid uplift has elevated geothermal gradients and restricted earthquakes to shallower depths than normal.
Core from DFDP1b borehole showing cross cutting veins and complex intermingling of lithologies
Core from DFDP1b
Alpine Fault damage zone (modified from Sutherland et al., 2012). Including borehole locations (in red) and processes and parameters the project aims to constrain (in blue).
Fault Zone Architecture

Scientific aims

Project objectives:

  • Sample fault rocks from seismogenic depths.
  • Determine stress state and permeability at a range of depths.
  • Install temperature and fluid pressure sensors across the fault zone and a seismometer at depth.
  • Collect wireline geophysical and image logs across the fault zone.

Specific aims determined by geochemical analyses:

  • Identify relative timing, conditions and sources of fluid flow and hydrothermal alteration in the fault zone.
  • Identify if cross-fault flow has occurred.
  • Determine in what way alteration processes affect rock strength and permeability.
  • Determine the origin of fault rocks and quantify relative contributions of different terranes.

Key Contacts

Dr. Catriona Menzies (Post doctoral research fellow)

Prof. Damon Teagle (Principal Investigator)

Dr. Elisabetta Mariani (Collaborator, University of Liverpool)

Prof. Daniel Faulkner (Collaborator, University of Liverpool)

Dr. Simon Cox (Collaborator, GNS Science New Zealand)

DFDP Project Leaders

Dr Rupert Sutherland

Dr John Townend

Dr Virginia G Toy

Project Page Links

Fluid flow associated with the Alpine Fault, South Island, New Zealand

PhD's and Other Opportunities


Associated research themes

Hydrothermal Processes and Mineral Deposits


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