On the predictivity of pore-scale simulations: estimating uncertainties with multilevel Monte Carlo

Matteo Icardi, Gianluca Boccardo, Raul Tempone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


A fast method with tunable accuracy is proposed to estimate errors and uncertainties in pore-scale and Digital Rock Physics (DRP) problems. The overall predictivity of these studies can be, in fact, hindered by many factors including sample heterogeneity, computational and imaging limitations, model inadequacy and not perfectly known physical parameters. The typical objective of pore-scale studies is the estimation of macroscopic effective parameters such as permeability, effective diffusivity and hydrodynamic dispersion. However, these are often non-deterministic quantities (i.e., results obtained for specific pore-scale sample and setup are not totally reproducible by another “equivalent” sample and setup). The stochastic nature can arise due to the multi-scale heterogeneity, the computational and experimental limitations in considering large samples, and the complexity of the physical models. These approximations, in fact, introduce an error that, being dependent on a large number of complex factors, can be modeled as random. We propose a general simulation tool, based on multilevel Monte Carlo, that can reduce drastically the computational cost needed for computing accurate statistics of effective parameters and other quantities of interest, under any of these random errors. This is, to our knowledge, the first attempt to include Uncertainty Quantification (UQ) in pore-scale physics and simulation. The method can also provide estimates of the discretization error and it is tested on three-dimensional transport problems in heterogeneous materials, where the sampling procedure is done by generation algorithms able to reproduce realistic consolidated and unconsolidated random sphere and ellipsoid packings and arrangements. A totally automatic workflow is developed in an open-source code [2015. https://bitbucket.org/micardi/porescalemc.], that include rigid body physics and random packing algorithms, unstructured mesh discretization, finite volume solvers, extrapolation and post-processing techniques. The proposed method can be efficiently used in many porous media applications for problems such as stochastic homogenization/upscaling, propagation of uncertainty from microscopic fluid and rock properties to macro-scale parameters, robust estimation of Representative Elementary Volume size for arbitrary physics.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)46-60
Number of pages15
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
StatePublished - Feb 8 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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