Articles | Volume 9, issue 2
Method article
06 Apr 2018
Method article |  | 06 Apr 2018

Monte Carlo simulation for uncertainty estimation on structural data in implicit 3-D geological modeling, a guide for disturbance distribution selection and parameterization

Evren Pakyuz-Charrier, Mark Lindsay, Vitaliy Ogarko, Jeremie Giraud, and Mark Jessell

Abstract. Three-dimensional (3-D) geological structural modeling aims to determine geological information in a 3-D space using structural data (foliations and interfaces) and topological rules as inputs. This is necessary in any project in which the properties of the subsurface matters; they express our understanding of geometries in depth. For that reason, 3-D geological models have a wide range of practical applications including but not restricted to civil engineering, the oil and gas industry, the mining industry, and water management. These models, however, are fraught with uncertainties originating from the inherent flaws of the modeling engines (working hypotheses, interpolator's parameterization) and the inherent lack of knowledge in areas where there are no observations combined with input uncertainty (observational, conceptual and technical errors). Because 3-D geological models are often used for impactful decision-making it is critical that all 3-D geological models provide accurate estimates of uncertainty. This paper's focus is set on the effect of structural input data measurement uncertainty propagation in implicit 3-D geological modeling. This aim is achieved using Monte Carlo simulation for uncertainty estimation (MCUE), a stochastic method which samples from predefined disturbance probability distributions that represent the uncertainty of the original input data set. MCUE is used to produce hundreds to thousands of altered unique data sets. The altered data sets are used as inputs to produce a range of plausible 3-D models. The plausible models are then combined into a single probabilistic model as a means to propagate uncertainty from the input data to the final model. In this paper, several improved methods for MCUE are proposed. The methods pertain to distribution selection for input uncertainty, sample analysis and statistical consistency of the sampled distribution. Pole vector sampling is proposed as a more rigorous alternative than dip vector sampling for planar features and the use of a Bayesian approach to disturbance distribution parameterization is suggested. The influence of incorrect disturbance distributions is discussed and propositions are made and evaluated on synthetic and realistic cases to address the sighted issues. The distribution of the errors of the observed data (i.e., scedasticity) is shown to affect the quality of prior distributions for MCUE. Results demonstrate that the proposed workflows improve the reliability of uncertainty estimation and diminish the occurrence of artifacts.

Short summary
MCUE is a method that produces probabilistic 3-D geological models by sampling from distributions that represent the uncertainty of the initial input dataset. This process generates numerous plausible datasets used to produce a range of statistically plausible 3-D models which are combined into a single probabilistic model. In this paper, improvements to distribution selection and parameterization for input uncertainty are proposed.