Scientific Reports

High accuracy capillary network representation in digital rock reveals permeability scaling functions

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Permeability is the key parameter for quantifying fluid flow in porous rocks. Knowledge of the spatial distribution of the connected pore space allows, in principle, to predict the permeability of a rock sample. However, limitations in feature resolution and approximations at microscopic scales have so far precluded systematic upscaling of permeability predictions. Here, we report fluid flow simulations in pore-scale network representations designed to overcome such limitations. We present a novel capillary network representation with an enhanced level of spatial detail at microscale. We find that the network-based flow simulations predict experimental permeabilities measured at lab scale in the same rock sample without the need for calibration or correction. By applying the method to a broader class of representative geological samples, with permeability values covering two orders of magnitude, we obtain scaling relationships that reveal how mesoscale permeability emerges from microscopic capillary diameter and fluid velocity distributions.