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Advances in Seismic Fault Interpretation Automation

Advances in Seismic Fault Interpretation Automation

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Published by Mahmoud Eloribi
Advances in Seismic Fault Interpretation Automation
Advances in Seismic Fault Interpretation Automation

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Published by: Mahmoud Eloribi on Aug 25, 2013
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11/03/2013

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Advances in Seismic Fault Interpretation Automation*
By
Randolph Pepper
1
and Gaston Bejarano
1
 
Search and Discovery Article #40169 (2005)
Posted September 7, 2005*Modified by the authors of their poster presentation at AAPG Annual Convention, June 19-22, 2005
1
Schlumberger Stavanger Technology Center, Stavanger, Norway (rpepper@slb.com; gbejarano@slb.com) 
Abstract
Since the first seismic trace was computer-rendered, automatic interpretation has been the promised panacea of the geo-science community. Twenty years later, we still struggle for areasonable automatic interpretation methodology in structurally challenging areas.While automated horizon tracking has become quite elegant, correlating across significant faultdisplacements remains an obstacle. Algorithms require human intervention to guide the trackingin newly encountered fault blocks. Constraining the horizon tracking to honor pre-existing faultshelps, and knowing the fault displacement further enhances this process.Advances in edge-detection algorithms have allowed direct illumination of faulting andseismically detectable fractures. These techniques improve manual interpretation, but onlyrepresent an entry point for automatic extraction of faults.For some geologic plays, re-sampling of the enhanced edge attribute into a geologic model property is a simple and effective method of un-biased automated fault interpretation. Explicitmethods to extract fault surfaces can utilize an automatically picked horizon indirectly throughanalysis of “non-picks” and gradient trends, followed by spatial correlation for verticalconnectivity. Alternatively, using the familiar techniques of seeded auto-picking, on an edgevolume, shows great promise. Flexible editing is essential with these methods.Finally, we examine the recent work on fault system interpretation, which provides asemiautomation of fault interpretation, elevating the interpreter’s task to the analysis of faultsystems. Incorporating new multi-horizon classification or displacement attributes allowinference about surface connectivity with fault throw. The final assembly of these advancedmethods as “bread and butter” interpretation mechanics, while not completely in place, is visibleon the horizon!
Historical Overview
The automatic tracking of seismic horizons has been widely available in commercial softwaresince the early 1990s providing our first insight into the problem of interpretation automation for geologic faults. What is immediately obvious with a horizon auto-tracker is that the trackingfrequently breaks down at fault boundaries. Depending on the tracker, and the parameter settings,we observe gaps in the resulting interpreted surface (non-picked areas) and possibly large time jumps where the auto-tracker picks an erroneous event. Consider the example where the horizonwe are tracking encounters a fault that has a displacement equal (in time) to some multiple of our dominate seismic frequency (Figure 1). In this case, our algorithm cannot distinguish anunfortunate alignment of seismic character across the fault without additional information to“recognize” that we have encountered a faulted surface. Using a larger window, encompassingmore of the wave train could potentially capture the offset on neighboring events. Or a more
 
 2sophisticated approach could use simultaneous tracking of multiple horizons, reducing thelikelihood for misalignment.
Figure 1. An example of horizon auto-tracking across a fault with a displacement equal to a multiple of ourseismic frequency. The auto-tracker found the top picked event as a continuous horizon, even with restrictivetracking parameters. The lower horizon shows a correct interpretation.
Most automatic horizon tracking applications include cross-correlation or waveform basedtracking algorithms to capture the seismic character over a user controlled window length. Thesemethods also compute a “quality factor” attribute associated with the horizon pick position,which give us a further indication on areas of faulting. The combination of interpretation gaps,large gradient trends, and connected regions of low quality factor can produce an excellent visualisolation of the fault geometry, relative to the background horizon structure.While the fault expression was made visible from the horizon auto-tracking method alone, asshown in Figure 2, the means to extract this fault information directly and automatically was notavailable. A clever approach to isolate the fault information from an auto-picked horizon is totake the inverse of the surface, i.e. show only areas where the interpretation does not exist.Figure 3 shows an example of the inverse operation on a surface. The fault boundaries for thestructural extent of the horizon are clearly visible. This technique must be applied to each surfaceand then linked from between one surface to the next, if a complete fault surface is required. Notreally an automatic process, but it does allow an un-bias extraction of faults from a statisticallyconsistent auto-tracker. Surface operations can be a powerful tool set for deriving additionalinformation from surfaces and surface properties. Workflow or process managers and objectcalculators are technologies not yet fully exploited by geoscientists.
 
 3
 Figure 2. Example of auto-picked seismic horizon. Notice the clear visibility of the faults on the pickedhorizon (gaps in the interpretation, or sharp gradients in the time values).
An early effort for semi-automatic fault interpretation came from Landmark GraphicsCorporation when they introduced FZAP! technology in 1997 (Hutchinson, Simpson et al., USPatent Number 5,537,320). This technique allowed users to begin their fault interpretation task  by simply “seeding” one or more fault segments (sticks) on a vertical seismic section, and theautomatic operation would perform a cross-correlation on a series of slanted traces derived parallel to the seeded fault segment. The method could be used for both tracking, where no previous fault interpretation existed, or snapping, where an existing fault interpretation would becorrected based on the slant trace cross-correlation algorithm. Each fault surface extracted wouldneed an initial seed point.A “seedless” approach to fault segment extraction was presented by van Bemmel and Pepper (1999, US Patent Number 5,999,885), where the gaps and sharp gradients from a horizoninterpretation are subjected to a connected body analysis followed by feature testing to deducelikely fault candidates. Through the analysis of multiple horizons, the entire fault framework could be extracted.Seismic signal process advanced rapidly during the 1990s, allowing us to approach the problemof fault interpretation automation in a similar vein as we attack horizon interpretation. Bahorichand Farmer (1995) present The Coherency Cube (US Patent Number 5,563,949), a seismicattribute for imaging discontinuities. They note that fault surfaces are distinctly separated fromneighbouring data, both visually and numerically, enabling auto-picking with the existinghorizon auto-tracking software. Lees (1999) directly demonstrates this methodology using avoxel-picking algorithm on a seismic cube processed with a semblance attribute. Crawford andMedwedeff (1999, US Patent Number 5,987388) demonstrate extracting faults from the 3Dseismic cube by performing linear feature detection on lateral slices through the seismic

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