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probabilistic analysis

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probabilistic analysis

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Benot Valley & Damien Duff - CEMI - Center for Excellence in Mining Innovation

Albert Einstein

Introduction

In order to develop a reliable design approach, one must use statistical methods to deal

with the variability of the input parameters. However tools usually used in geomechanics,

like stress analyses (e.g. Finite Element Analyses, FEM), are in essence deterministic (a

single set of input parameters leads to a single answer). Also, these tools are often

computing time intensive and are not well-suited for the multiple runs needed for

systematic sensitivity analyses or statistical simulations (e.g. Monte-Carlo). That's the

reason why the Center for Excellence in Mining Innovation (CEMI) recently contracted

RocScience Inc. to introduce an alternate method, the Rosenblueth point-estimate method

(PEM, Rosenblueth, 1975), a simple, computing efficient probabilistic method, into their

FEM software Phase2 version 8.0. This paper presents the approach and discusses its

applicability.

When considering statistical distributions of input parameters in geomechanics problems,

three different concepts must be considered: uncertainty, variability and heterogeneities.

These three concepts must be treated separately as they have various impacts on the rock

mass behaviour and, therefore, different approaches must be used to tackle them.

Probability density

Uncertainties arise from the difficulty in measuring key geomechanical properties like rock

stresses, rock modulus or rock strength. Any of these measurements involves some error

due to the sampling process, sample preparation or sensitivity and calibration of the

measuring devices. This uncertainty is usually evaluated and reduced by acquiring

repeated measurements during the

development of a project (Fig. 1).

Demand

Considering a given design criterion, the

probability of failure is given by the gray

Final design

areas on Fig. 1 which, when combined

Detailed design

with the consequence of failure, allows

Preliminary design

the computation of the risk of a given

Capacity

design (taking the standard definition of

risk being probability of occurrence times

Potential for

consequence)

and

therefore,

an

failure

evaluation of whether this risk is

acceptable.

The PEM/FEM method presented in this

paper is particularly suited to handle this

kind of situation, i.e., it allows one to

track how uncertainties in the input

parameters are propagated through the

Design parameter

the development of a project until the potential

for failure is minimised to an acceptable level

(after Hoek, 1992)

analyses and produce uncertainty in the design parameters. It allows the engineer to not

limit the design to a single deterministic analysis with the most probable parameters (the

mode of the distribution of Fig. 1), but to evaluate the reliability of the design by

considering the dispersion of the design parameters.

Variability is an inherent property of natural materials and rocks or rock masses are no

exception. It arises from the various formation and transformation processes of rock and

rock masses which have a local influence on their mechanical parameters and

characteristics. Due to this variability, rock mass properties will vary, for example, within a

rock unit along the trace of a tunnel. Thus, a failure mechanism will affect more or less

severely various locations along this tunnel. Here again the PEM/FEM approach presented

in this paper is well-suited and will, for example, allow the engineer to anticipate what

percentage of a tunnel section will be affected by a failure mechanism for a given severity

level. It will also allow for an evaluation of the range of severity of a given failure

mechanism that should be anticipated and thereby permit the inclusion of flexibility in the

design to handle the less probable but potentially more severe situation. Having an

estimate of the distribution of the severity of a potential failure mechanism will also permit

the optimisation of the support systems and allow a better estimation of the cost and thus

the economical risk of a project.

Heterogeneities need to be treated separately as they will influence the severity of a failure

mechanism and, more importantly, change the behaviour of the rocks or rock masses. For

example, increasing modulus heterogeneities in a rock will promote the development of

local tensile stress even in an overall compressive field, which will affect the failure mode,

e.g. change from a shear mechanism to a tensile dominated mechanism like spalling (e.g.

Diederichs, 2007). The PEM/FEM approach proposed in this paper does not simulate the

effect of heterogeneities. Heterogeneities must be handled differently, either by the use of a

classification system, coupled with equivalent homogeneous properties (Hoek and Brown,

1997) or by explicit modelling of the heterogeneities (e.g. Valley et al., 2010a).

In the simplest case, when closed-form analytical solutions are available for an analysis

and when the input parameters are independent and uncorrelated, the propagation of

errors can be approximated by using a first order Taylor series. However, such an approach

requires that it is possible to extract a partial derivative for the solution function. This is

not always feasible and is obviously impossible when the solution to a problem is found by

a numerical method like FEM. The point estimate method proposed by Rosenblueth

(1975), allows one to propagate error even if no closed-form analytical solution is

available. The principle of PEM is to compute solutions at various estimation points and to

combine them with proper weighting in order to get an approximation of the distribution

of the solution (see Fig. 2). The PEM implemented in Phase2 8.0 is the two-point estimate

method for the first and second moment of uncorrelated variables. It needs 2n evaluations

of the solution, where n is the number of random variables. The distribution of the solution

for y f ( x1 , x2 ,..., xn ) is given by:

2n

y wf i

i 1

(1)

y wf i wf i

i

i

2n

INPUT

(2)

OUPUT

x1 x

P-1

P+

1

solution

(e.g. FEM solver)

y=f(x1,x2)

Probabilistic output

y y

Compute 2 solutions

for combinations of

estimation points.

Probabilistic input variable 2

x2 x

P-2

P+

2

- y--=f(P1 , P2 )

+

y+-=f(P1 , P2 )

- +

y-+=f(P1 , P2 )

+

+

y++=f(P1 , P2 )

proper weighting to

approximate the probabilistic

output variable

Fig. 2 Illustration of the computation principle of an approximation of the output probabilistic variable using

the point estimate method. In this example, the case with only two probabilistic input variables is

assumed.

where the weights w are given by 1/2n. fi are successive evaluations of f at the 2n possible

combinations of the random variables at the point estimate locations, i.e. at xn xn and

xn xn . In the solution presented here, all input and variable and output variables are

assumed to follow a normal distribution given by their mean x and standard deviation x .

Example of application

In order to illustrate how to use the PEM with FEM let's look at the following example: the

stress distribution around a circular opening has to be evaluated, but the estimations of the

far field stresses (S1 and S3) are uncertain. Let's assume that this uncertainty can be

captured by a normal distribution, i.e., a mean and a standard deviation (see modelling

properties given in Table 1). In order to evaluate the uncertainty associated with some

design parameter (let's assume, for example, the maximum principal stress at the

excavation boundary), four (22, because there are two random variables, S1 and S3) models

(Fig. 3a to d) must be run, assuming the following combinations of input for the far field

stresses: [S1=25 MPa; S3=13 MPa], [S1=25 MPa; S3=17 MPa], [S1=35 MPa; S3=13 MPa] and,

[S1=35 MPa; S3=17 MPa]. These combinations consist of all possible combinations of the

mean one standard deviation. The outputs of these models must then be combined using

Equation (1) and Equation (2) in order to obtain the mean and standard deviation of the

output design criteria (Fig. 3e and f).

It is interesting to see that even in this simple case of elastic stresses around a circular

opening, the pattern of uncertainty (see Fig. 3f) is quite complex and not intuitive. The

highest uncertainty is located where S1 is maximum while an area of low uncertainty arises

in the S1 far field direction at about one tunnel radius (darker area on Fig. 3f).

Table 1

Input parameter

Mean

Standard

deviation

S1 (horizontal)

30 MPa

5 MPa

S3 (vertical)

15 MPa

2 MPa

10 MPa

-a

Young modulus E

20 GPa

-a

Poisson ratio

0.25

-a

standard deviation is defined for them.

a

Far field a)

stress input

S1=25 MPa

S3=13 MPa

b)

S1=25 MPa

S3=17 MPa

S1 contour

S contour

MPa e) Mean of S1 [MPa]

MPa

1.95

5.0

2.60

9.5

3.25

14.0

3.90

18.5

4.55

23.0

5.20

27.5

5.85

32.0

6.50

36.5

7.15

41.0

7.80

45.5

8.45

50.0

9.10

54.5

Standard deviation of S1 [MPa]

9.75 f)

59.0

10.40

63.5

11.05

68.0

11.70

72.5

12.35

77.0

13.00

81.5

13.65

86.0

14.30

90.5

14.95

95.0

1

c)

g)

0.2

S3=152 MPa

d)

Density of probability

S1=35 MPa

S3=13 MPa

(far field stress)

0.15

0.1

S1=305 MPa

ouput random variable

(S1 at the black dot above)

S1max=73.614.8 MPa

0.05

S1=35 MPa

S3=17 MPa

0

0

20

40

60

Stress [MPa]

80

100

Figure 3 Example of PEM/FEM computation with parameters given in Table 1. a), b), c) and d) evaluation of

the maximum principal stress S1 (FEM elastic models) at the four combinations of the estimation

points; e) and f) probabilistic output (mean and standard deviation) for S1 obtained by combining the

FEM results in the left with the PEM (Equations (1) and (2)); g) Probability density functions of the

input (S1 and S3, dashed line and dotted line) and the output of the analyses where principal stress is

maximum (S1max) (see black dot for location on e and f).

The example presented on Fig. 3 was selected for didactic purposes and is very simple. The

implementation of the PEM in Phase2 8.0 permits inclusion of all the complexity that Phase2

typically allows, including complex geometry, excavation stages, plasticity, etc. The Phase2

8.0 interface facilitates the interpretation of the probabilistic output by offering the

appropriate visualisation tools, including standard deviation contouring, coefficient of

variation contouring, and line plots with error bars.

When increasing the complexity of the model, one must however be aware of the

limitations of the PEM. Particularly, in complex models, when multiple behaviours occur

concomitantly, the actual output distribution can significantly differ from a normal

distribution and thus the PEM may have difficulty in capturing it accurately. This may

happen, for example, when looking at a location close to the fringe of a plasticity front

where both mechanisms affect the output distribution. These effects were studied in detail

by comparing PEM and Monte-Carlo output (Valley et al., 2010b) and the results are

presented schematically on Fig. 4. When all combinations of estimation points, as well as

the major part of the input distributions, generate the same mechanism (Fig. 4a), the PEM

approximation of the output distribution is accurate. However, when mixed behaviour

modes occur (Fig. 4b and c), the PEM output can be inaccurate and cannot capture the

presence of tails in the output distribution (Fig. 4b) or the overall output distribution

shape (Fig. 4c).

Fig. 4: Illustration of the effect of mixed behaviour on the accuracy of the PEM approximated output

distribution compared to an actual output distribution evaluated using Monte-Carlo computations.

Conclusions

The PEM/FEM approach implemented in Phase2 8.0 presents an attractive method for

handling the uncertainty and variability inherent in most geomechanical problems. The

approximation using point estimates makes it computationally efficient and permits the

performance of statistical analyses for problems for which other methods like Monte-Carlo

simulation are not practical. However, its simplicity brings some limitations. The PEM

approach, as presented here without correlation, is based on normal and uncorrelated

distributions. When a modelled case differs from these assumptions the results can be

inaccurate. Generally, the central tendency and some variability around it is well captured,

but in many cases the tails may not be captured properly.

When modelling involves behaviour discontinuities, as for example when transitioning

from elastic to plastic domains, the point estimate method shows further limitations and

does not accurately capture the distribution of the design criteria. For this reason, it is

recommended to test the effect of a limited number of random variables at a time. This will

not only save computation time and allow deeper exploration of the possible outcomes but

will also permit a better understanding and control over the potential bias introduced by

the PEM/FEM approach. In addition to the outputs obtained using the proposed PEM/FEM

approach, it is recommended to manually run some extreme cases of the targeted

distributions in order to determine if it captures the tails of the output distribution

properly. Never forget that a model must be as simple as possible, but not simpler.

In summary, when combined with an awareness of the assumptions and potential

limitations, the PEM/FEM approach offers an attractive and very efficient way of

considering uncertainty in FEM analyses. It should lead to a broader use of the

probabilistic approach in the mining industry and a better assessment of the reliability

level of the design of underground openings.

References

Hoek, E. (1992) When is a design in rock engineering acceptable? - 1991 Mller lecture, in Proceedings

7th Congress Int. Soc. Rock Mech., Aachen: A.A. Balkema, pp. 325.

Hoek, E. and Brown, E.T. (1997) Practical estimates of rock mass strength, International Journal of Rock

Mechanics and Mining Sciences, doi:10.1016/S1365-1609(97)80069-X, Vol. 34 (8), pp. 1165

1186.

Rosenblueth, E. (1975) Point estimates for probability moments, in Proceedings of the National Academy

of Sciences, Vol. 72 (10), pp. 38123814.

Valley, B., Suorineni, F.T. and Kaiser, P.K. (2010) Numerical analyses of the effect of heterogeneities on

rock failure process, in ARMA conference, paper no. 10-648, Salt Lake City.

Valley, B., P. K. Kaiser, and D. Duff (2010). Consideration of uncertainty in modelling the behaviour of

underground excavations. In M. Van Sint Jan and Y. Potvin (Eds.), 5th international seminar on

deep and high stress mining, pp. 423-436. Australian Centre for Geomechanics.

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