Articles | Volume 2
Conference Abstract
06 Sep 2023
Conference Abstract |  | 06 Sep 2023

The slip tendency of 3D faults in Germany

Luisa Röckel, Steffen Ahlers, Sophia Morawietz, Birgit Müller, Tobias Hergert, Karsten Reiter, Andreas Henk, Moritz Ziegler, Oliver Heidbach, and Frank Schilling

Fault reactivation potential is a crucial aspect for many underground utilizations, such as the construction and long-term safety of a nuclear waste repository, as seismic events can endanger these operations. An estimation of the fault reactivation potential requires information about the stress field, but stress data are only available pointwise and are not evenly distributed throughout Germany. Geomechanical–numerical modeling can be used to derive a spatially continuous description of all six independent components of the stress tensor as shown by the model of Germany by Ahlers et al. (2022). Information about the geometry of faults extending several kilometers in depth is provided for most areas in Germany by the geological models of the federal states and geological models created in the framework of projects such as GeoMol (Assessing subsurface potentials of the Alpine Foreland Basins for sustainable planning and use of natural resources) or GeORG (Geopotenziale des tieferen Untergrundes im Oberrheingraben). We use the 3D fault geometries provided by such models and map the stress data from the Germany model by Ahlers et al. (2022) onto these faults. Then, assuming hydrostatic pore pressure, we calculate the so-called slip tendency (TS), the ratio between resolved shear stress and the effective normal stress on the fault plane as a measure of fault reactivation potential. A fault is considered critical when its TS value exceeds its coefficient of friction.

In general, TS ranges between 0 and 0.7 for the analyzed faults. The highest overall TS values are observed along the NNE–SSW-striking Upper Rhine Graben, where TS routinely reaches and exceeds values of 0.7. In the North German Basin, the Ore Mountains and Saxony only very few TS values exceed 0.7. The area with the lowest overall TS is the Molasse Basin, where the TS of the mostly WSW–ENE-striking faults only rarely exceeds values of 0.4. In general, N–S- to NNE–SSW- and NW–SE-striking faults show the highest TS values, whereas WSW–ENE-striking faults show the overall lowest values. With increasing depth, TS decreases. Pore pressure and overpressure have the potential to significantly influence the resulting TS.

Financial support

This work has been supported by the project Spannungsmodell Endlagerung Deutschland SpannEnD 2.0 funded by the federal company for radioactive waste disposal BGE (Bundesgesellschaft für Endlagerung).


Ahlers, S., Röckel, L., Hergert, T., Reiter, K., Heidbach, O., Henk, A., Müller, B., Morawietz, S., Scheck-Wenderoth, M., and Anikie, D.: The crustal stress field of Germany: a refined prediction, Geotherm. Energ., 10, 10,, 2022. 

Short summary
Stress data predicted by a geomechanical–numerical model are mapped onto 3D fault geometries. Then the slip tendency of these faults is calculated as a measure of their reactivation potential. Characteristics of the faults and the state of stress are identified that lead to a high fault reactivation potential. An overall high reactivation potential is observed in the Upper Rhine Graben area, whereas the reactivation potential is quite low in the Molasse Basin.