Michael Kettermann

PhD Student

+49 (0)241 80-98439
Office location:
Lochnerstraße 4-20

Research Projects

My ongoing research is focussed on the development of fluid pathways and barriers in fault zones.

I study the evolution of dilatant faults in cohesive rocks using an analogue modeling approach. Hemihydrate powder is a material that is due to its small grain size and cohesion is well suited to represent these rocks at lab-scale. A current project investigates the structure of fault zones in dependence of the failure mode of the rocks. We can choose the failure mode of hemihdyrate powder by varying the amount of overburden pressure. Small pressure leads to mode-I failure, while higher pressures cause shear failure. The aim of this project is to provide fault attributes that allow to predict the failure mode of a fault in the subsurface from map-view geometry and predict sub-seismic scale fractures and fault premeabilities.

I study the baffling/sealing capacity of clay entrained in faults using underwater sandbox setups. displacement of up to 15 cm allow to produce a wide range of SGRs. Excavating the clay layer post mortem gives great insight in the continuity of these clay-smears after experiment termination; monitoring bulk fluid flow across the fault during deformation furthermore provides the opportunity to understand the evolution of flux with increasing displacment. This project is funded by ExxonMobil URC.

MSc Thesis: The effect of preexisting joints on normal fault evolution - Insights from fieldwork and analogue modeling

This thesis aims for an understanding of the e ffect of preexisting joint sets on normal fault geometry. Approaches for this work contain a field study, remote sensing and analogue modeling.

The Grabens Area of the Needles fault zone in the Canyonlands National Park, Utah/USA was chosen as field analogue. This arcuate array of young grabens extends over several kilometers along the Colorado River in brittle lithologies (Permian) with regular preexisting joint sets. The graben-bounding normal faults formed due to gravity-driven extension above Pennsylvanian evaporites. Well-preserved outcrops and the stratigraphic similarity to producing reservoirs make this region a perfect fi eld analogue.

In advance to the fieldwork I spent some time on remote sensing, including GIS-based mapping of over 20,000 joints and 500 faults from high-resolution orthoimagery as well as calculations of drainage pattern and graben-floor dip-directions from digital elevation models. Three weeks of field work were then spent in the Canyonlands National Park, Utah, together with Heijn van Gent and Christoph Grützner to do ground penetrating radar surveys within the grabens and investigate the fault structures. (Gallery)

For the analogue modeling cohesive hemihydrate powder was used that scales well for brittle lithologies. Analytic methods contain
high resolution time-lapse photography and particle imaging velocimetry (PIV) analyses. Prior to deformation, joints were implemented in a 20 cm high powder column. The angle between joint and basement-fault strike was then increased in a series of experiments.

The following movies show an experiment with a joint set striking in an angle of 20° to the predefined fault strike.

BSc Thesis: The analogue modeling of boudins





Michael Kettermann
The effect of preexisting joints on normal fault evolution : insights from fieldwork and analogue modeling. MSc thesis, supervised by Janos Urai, Heijn van Gent and Christoph Grützner (2011)
Michael Kettermann
The analogue modeling of boudins. BSc-thesis. Supervised by Janos Urai and Heijn van Gent (2009)


Peter Vrolijk, Janos Urai, Michael Kettermann
Clay smear: Review of mechanisms and applications. Journal of Structural Geology, Volume 86, May 2016, Pages 95-152, doi:10.1016/j.jsg.2015.09.006 (2016)
Michael Kettermann, Sebastian Thronberens, Martin Ziegler, Janos Urai, Sven Asmus
Mechanisms of clay smear formation in unconsolidated sediments - insights from 3-D observations of excavated normal faults. Solid Earth, 7(3), 789–815, 2016. (2016)
Michael Kettermann, Christoph von Hagke, Heijn van Gent, Christoph Grützner, Janos Urai
Dilatant normal faulting in jointed cohesive rocks: a physical model study; Solid Earth, 7, 843-856, doi:10.5194/se-7-843-2016 (2016)
Michael Kettermann, Janos Urai
Changes in structural style of normal faults due to failure mode transition: First results from excavated scale models. Journal of Structural Geology, Vol. 74, 105–116, doi:10.1016/j.jsg.2015.02.013 (2015)
Michael Kettermann, Christoph von Hagke, Janos Urai, Heijn van Gent
The interaction between pre-existing joints and normal faults in analogue models - implications for fault architecture and fracture connectivity; In: C. v. Hagke, J. Urai, K. Reicherter, F. Wellmann, C. Hilgers (Eds.). 20th Int. Conf. on Deformation Mechanisms, Rheology & Tectonics, Geotectonic Research 97 Special Issue, pp. 56-58 (2015)
Michael Kettermann, Christoph Grützner, Heijn van Gent, Janos Urai, Klaus Reicherter, Jasmin Mertens
Evolution of a highly dilatant fault zone in the grabens of Canyonlands National Park, Utah/USA - integrating field work, ground penetrating radar and airborne imagery analysis. Solid Earth Discussions, Vol. 6, pp. 839-855, DOI: 10.5194/se-6-839-2015 (2015)
Steffen Abe, Janos Urai, Michael Kettermann
Fracture patterns in nonplane strain boudinage—insights from 3-D discrete element models. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth 118 (3), 1304-1315. (2013)


Michael Kettermann, Christoph von Hagke, Simon Virgo, Janos Urai
Testing the influence of vertical, pre-existing joints on normal faulting using analogue and 3D discrete element models (DEM), Abstract Ref. Nr. EGU2015-11271 (2015)
Michael Kettermann, Janos Urai, Sebastian Thronberens, Sven Asmus
Clay Smear Processes in Unlithified Clay-sand Sequences of the Hambach Lignite Mine. EAGE Fourth International Conference on Fault and Top Seals, 20.-24. September 2015, Almeria, Spain. DOI: 10.3997/2214-4609.201414059 (2015)
Michael Kettermann, Janos Urai, Peter Vrolijk
Relating Structural Elements to Cross-fault Flow - Implications for Fault Permeability Estimation. EAGE Fourth International Conference on Fault and Top Seals, 20-24 September 2015, Almeria, Spain. DOI:10.3997/2214-4609.201414055 (2015)
Michael Kettermann, Janos Urai
Characteristic fault zone architectures as result of different failure modes: First results from scale models of normal faulting. EGU European Geosciences Union General Assembly, 27th April – 02nd May, 2014, Vienna (Austria). (2014)
Michael Kettermann, Janos Urai, Joschka Röth
How failure mode transition affects structural complexity in extensional graben settings: insights from excavated scale models. Geometry and Growth of Normal Faults. The Geological Society London, 23rd - 25th June, 2014. (2014)
Michael Kettermann, Janos Urai, Peter Vrolijk
Three-dimensional fault zone architecture in layered clay-sand sequences and its implications on fault permeability: new insights from analogue models. Geometry and Growth of Normal Faults. The Geological Society London, 23rd - 25th of June, 2014. (2014)
Sebastian Thronberens, Michael Kettermann, Sohrab Noorsalehi-Garakani, Janos Urai, Peter Lokay
Clay gouge investigation of the Etzweiler Fault in the open pit mine Hambach: clay deformation, discontinuities and three dimensional progressions. The Geological Society London; 23rd - 25th of June, 2014 (London, GB). (2014)
Sohrab Noorsalehi-Garakani, Janos Urai, Michael Kettermann
Clay-Gouge thickness and 3D fault zone architecture in normal faults - insights from water-saturated sandbox experiments. Deformation mechanisms Rheology and Tectonics 2013. KU Leuven, 16-18 September, Leuven, Belgium. (2013)
Peter Vrolijk, Rodrick Myers, Michael Kettermann, Gisa J. Kleine Vennekate, Sofie Nollet, Sohrab Noorsalehi-Garakani, Joyce Schmatz, Janos Urai
CROSS-FAULT FLOW IN SEDIMENTARY ENVIRONMENTS. GSA Annual Meeting, 125th Anniversary of GSA. 27-30 October 2013 Denver, USA. (2013)
Michael Kettermann, Joschka Röth, Janos Urai
Failure mode transition as result of effective stress – insights from analogue modeling using hemihydrate powder and sand. DEFORMATION MECHANISMS, RHEOLOGY & TECTONICS. KU Leuven 16-18 September 2013, Leuven, Belgium. (2013)
Steffen Abe, Janos Urai, Michael Kettermann
Discrete element modeling of boudinage in 2D and 3D: Insights on rock rheology, matrix flow, and evolution of 3D geometry. DEFORMATION MECHANISMS, RHEOLOGY & TECTONICS, KU Leuven 16-18 September 2013, Leuven, Belgium (2013)
Michael Kettermann, Heijn van Gent, Janos Urai
Modeling the effect of preexisting joints on normal fault geometries using a brittle and cohesive material. Geophysical Research Abstracts Vol. 14, EGU2012-4810, 2012 EGU General Assembly 2012 (2012)
Michael Kettermann, Heijn van Gent, Christoph Grützner, Janos Urai
The effect of preexisting joints on normal fault evolution - Insights from field work and analogue modeling. TSK14 at Geomar, Kiel, 28.-30. 03. 2012 (2012)
Michael Kettermann, Heijn van Gent, Christoph Grützner
Interaction between joints and normal faults in a graben setting - a field study in Canyonlands National Park, Utah/USA. Geotag 2011, RWTH Aachen University (2011)
Michael Kettermann, Sohrab Noorsalehi-Garakani, Heijn van Gent, Steffen Abe, Janos Urai, Marc Holland
Modeling of dilatant fractures in homogenous, cohesive material and in the presence of preexisting fractures. EGU General Assembly. Geophysical Research Abstracts, 13, pp. EGU2011-13519-1. Room 28 / Mon, 04 Apr, 11:15-11:30, oral. (2011)
Michael Kettermann, Heijn van Gent, Janos Urai
The analogue modeling of boudins, using a truly brittle cohesive layer. TSK13, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 6-12. 4. 2010, 26. (2010)