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s the name of our publication suggests, THE LEADING EDGE has a mandate to seek out and publish articles that discuss the latest developments in the geophysical industry. This includes developments in both geophysical techniques and geophysical interpretation as applied to the understanding of the earths geology. However, we are also aware that our journal is passed around the office to nongeophysicists, and is also read by many geophysicists who may not be familiar with certain techniques. For that reason, it is important to sometimes go back and look at the basics. From time to time, an article is submitted that falls into the category of a geophysical tutorial-that is, it explains a fundamental idea in a clear and concise fashion that can be understood by all readers. In fact, readers who know the subject matter often find it a worthwhile exercise to reread this material. They are often surprised at some new pearl of wisdom that they are able to glean from the article. The following article, Basics of seismic velocities by George Amery, is a good example. It is a clear review of seismic velocity concepts and explains the differences between such things as interval, average, NMO, and rms velocity. The paper also looks at the effects on velocity of horizontal and dipping layers. Have a look at this article. If you think your already know this material, pass it on to a colleague (maybe a geologist or reservoir engineer). And, even better, if there is an area of geophysics that you feel needs such a tutorial, sit down and try to write it. Wed love to hear from you. Maybe we could convert the status of this series from semiinfrequent to fairly frequent. -BRIAN RUSSELL Chairman, TLE Editorial Board

Basics of seismic velocities

By GEORGE B. AMERY Houston, Texas

U nderstanding and interpreting seismic velocity data appear

to be difficult for two reasons. First, complexity is introduced when we describe seismic velocities as interval velocity ( V or Vi ), average velocity (I$&, normal moveout velocity ( VWO) and root-mean-square velocity (l&J. The second cause for difficulty is due to the effect of physical-geologic variations on seismic velocity and our general lack of understanding of those effects. Velocity of compressional wave propagation is a fundamental physical property of rocks, a property that is determined by its density and elastic moduli. Stratigraphers describe rock layers, starting with the thinnest, as lamina, lamina sets, beds, bed sets, sequences, sequence sets. A lamina is usually a rather homogeneous rock unit, thin (inches) but of

significant lateral extent, and with a rather constant interval velocity. In terms of reflection seismic data, the thinnest unit we might examine effectively is the sequence or sequence set (several hundreds of feet). The characteristic velocity of this larger unit is the interval-time-weighted average of the velocities of all the lamina that compose the unit. This velocity is usually referred to as interval velocity ( V or Vi ), although it actually is an average. On the short end of the spectrum, a sonic log with 2 ft spacing is probably measuring velocities at the lamina-set or bed level. Average velocity (V&& is the average of all the interval velocities from the surface to the depth of a particular horizon. Normal moveout velocity (VmO) is the parameter that describes the shape of a seismic reflection recorded at several


Figure 1. Simple layered earth model showing measurement of VBm in well velocity survey.

different offset distances and is also a measurable quantity. As we shall see, Vm and V&, are not equal. If the earth were composed of horizontal layers, a mathematical relationship between them could be developed through the use of the root-mean-square velocity (I?-). Vfms is not a physical, measurable parameter - it is the result of a simple mathematical model. The use of this simple model allows better understanding of the relationships between VI:, VBm , VO, and V . For the purpose of this discussion; most of the equations are presented and discussed in graphic form. Nowadays these calculations all take place in the computer. That, however, does not relieve the seismic interpreter of the need to know what has taken place in the reduction of his data. The mathematical model may be defined in geologic terms. Then the model may be changed to fit reasonable or known geologic conditions and the effect of these changes on seismic velocities may be demonstrated. If the velocities of the layers of the geologic model are altered so that the resulting synthetic data are similar to the real seismic data, something of the true structure and stratigraphy may be learned. Conversely, if the geology of an area is known, seismic velocities may be more easily interpreted. eismic velocities from geologic models. The purpose of the geologic model is to provide a simple representation of rock layers that can be analyzed mathematically. The most easily resolvable model is composed of layers with discrete velocities which are bounded by horizontal planes (Figure 1). Each layer has a uniform velocity, V, a thickness, Ah, and a traveltime At vertically through the layer, such that Ah = VAt.

Figure 2. Geologic model with single layer, horizontal reflector.

During a velocity survey, the time-depth measurements are obtained a numerous positions of the geophone in the borehole. Using these measurements, we may construct a time-depth curve from which, given a traveltime to a reflector, the depth of the reflector may be determined. Although well velocity surveys are fairly precise, measurements of this type are only obtained in widely spaced boreholes. Therefore the velocity interpreter spends most of his/her time determining less precise velocities from reflection data, which were obtained from surface measurements which may be closely spaced.

V NMO. The increase in time of arrival of a reflection as

shot-geophone distance increases is referred to as normal moveout. Using the simplest of geologic models-a single layer of velocity V bounded by horizontal planes at top and bottom-it can be shown that velocity and normal moveout are mathematically related (Figure 2). For Figure 2, the Law of Reflection establishes an image point (I) of the shotpoint ( S ) on a line normal to the reflector and at equal distance ( H ) below the reflector, such that raypath distance SPG equals distance IPG. The Pythagorean theorem produces the normal moveout equation (IPG)* = X2 + (2H)*, or (VT,)2 = x2 + (VTJ*, or T* x = X*/V2 + To2 . This hyperbolic function is most easily examined graphically in terms of a plot of X2 versus p which transforms the function to the linear form, y = mx + b (Figure 3). In this slope-intercept form, Iy1 = l/V2. Note that when the velocity increases the slope decreases. If values of T,2 and X2 derived from common midpoint data (CMP) are used to determine the constants m and b ( l/V2 and To*), then the velocity obtained is defined as normal moveout velocity = To2 + X2/ I&,*. T2 x

V BAR. First we shall examine average velocity or Vm. This

is the velocity that is measured during a well velocity survey when a geophone is lowered into the wellbore on a cable, a shot is fired near the surface, and the traveltime of the shockwave from the shot to the geophone is measured (Figure 1). The average velocity of wave propagation from the shot to the geophone is equal to the depth of the geophone below the shot divided by the measured traveltime: n v;:Ati c i=l VBAR= 7 Ati ic =1


Several ways of determining VW0 are available. The graphic way is to plot the 7z versus X2 data, fit a straight line through the points, and measure the slope and intercept of the line (Figure 3). For a single layer, it is apparent that vmO and I$m are equal. If a multilayer model is used, VW0 does not equal IJBm. For the multilayer model, raypaths follow a minimum time path (Fermats principle), which alters the normal moveout relationship. This effect is seen through the use of a two-layer model (Figure 4). If a seismic ray could follow a minimum distance path (like ACE in Figure 4), the resulting velocity would be the same as vBAR These minimum-distance traveltimes are plotted in Figure 5 (labelled m = 1/vBm2). A true raypath will follow a minimum time path (ABCDE in Figure 4) which means that it will travel less distance in the low-velocity layer and more distance in the higher velocity layer. A plot of X2 versus T2 will be a curve as shown in Figure 5 by discrete points. If a straight line is passed through these points, its slope (m) is l/vWo2 and intercept is T:. As shown in Figure 5, vO is greater than vBm.

Figure 3. TX2 versus X2 plot for single horizontal layer.

Vrms. The solution of traveltime from shot to reflector to

geophone (ABCDE) in a multilayer model (Figure 4) produces and equation of the infinite series form T2=A+BX2+CX4+... x where A is equal to To2 , and n Ati ic r= 1 n PAt z i i i=l (see Velocity spectra-digital computer derivation and application of velocity functions by M.T. Taner and F. Koehler, GEOPHYSICS 1969). If this equation is differentiated with respect to X2, the slope (dTx2/dX2) = B at X2 = 0. That is, if we plot Tx2 versus X2 , the slope of that plot at X2 = 0 is the quantity B in the above equation. The square root of the inverse of the quantity B is recognized as the interval-time-weighted root-meansquare of the interval velocities and is called V rms. Although this equation is an infiite series, it appears that the terms larger than X2 are alternatively positive and negative and not very large, so they tend to restrain each other, particularly for distances that are small. So long as the distance, X, is not large (less than the depth to the reflector), a linear fit of the X2 versus T2 data will not differ appreciably from the slope of the plot at X2 = 0. Thus for short distances, we can state that v- = vWO, provided there is no dip on the beds. As X increases greatly, the terms higher than X2 become more and more significant and a linear fit in the X2, T2 domain will not produce VW0 that is approximately I!-. The larger the distance, the more these two terms deviate (Figure 5). For short distances, where VW0 approximates vfms , this relationship is useful because I!- derived from this infinite series may be used to determine interval velocities (see also Seismic velocities from surface measurements by C.H. Figure 4. Multiple layers, horizontal interface model, showing minimum distance and minimum time paths.


Figure 5. TX2 versus X2 plot for multiple layers, showing relationship between Vmo , Vms , and VBm.


Dix, G EOPHYSICS 1955). If it has been determined that maximum offset distance (Xmax) is less than depth to the reflectors at the top and base of an interval, the interval velocity may be determined. The equations for V rms to the top and the base of the bed are given by yrn, T, = iyAti I i-l v rrni 1 Tn-l =-qAti c i=l (base), and

for a dipping reflector overlain by a single layer of constant velocity ( V ) . In Figure 6, the shot and geophone are each X /2 away from the CMP. The raypath for To is from a shot-geophone pair where x /2 = 0. From this configuration, we may obtain from the law of cosines (ZPG)2 = (SG)2 + (Zf12 - 2(SG)(Z,S) cos ((n/2) + 8) = (SG)2 + (2H - X sin 0)2 + 2X(2H -x sin 0) sin 8 =x2cos2e+41Y2. Dividing by V 2,

(top). Tx 2 = x2 COS2 o/V2 + To2. The angle 8 is the dip of the reflector in the plane of the profile. In the slope-intercept form, the last equation gives a slope (m = cos2 e/V2). If the constants m and b are determined from T,2 and X 2 data, then m = 1/VMo2, and for the dipping single reflector, v = vNMO cos 8 . Solution of the Dix equation assumes that the zero-offset th th raypaths to the ( n - 1) and n reflectors follow a common path. The more this assumption is in error, the larger the error in interval velocity. In that case, subtracting T, _ 1 from Tn does not result in a usable At through the layer. The larger the difference in dips between these two reflectors, the larger the error will be. Dip complicates the determination of interval velocities from seismic data. However, so long as dips are small (a few degrees), the results are usable. Even though beds are dipping, the V NMO 's determined from ( X, Tx ) data from reflections produce velocities that properly correct the CMP traces for normal moveout. Thus, although a velocity which has been determined in this manner is not adequate for geologic or time-depth analysis, it is totally adequate for normal moveout correction. So long as the earth conforms closely to the model (horizontal, homogeneous beds), velocities that are calculated

Subtracting the equation to the top from that to the base results ln = v2 n (YmsTn - vf,, Tn- 1) (Tn - Tn.Yi)

from which the velocity of the interval may be determined. Performing this calculation for all intervals between primary reflections permits the construction of a time-depth plot similar to the time-depth plot from the well velocity survey. The accuracy is dependent upon the size of the time intervals and data quality. Usually, the time-depth data from V rms velocities produce an average velocity (or V BAR) that is slightly faster than the velocity survey, probably due to velocity anisotropy in the rock layers. The previous equation is often referred to as the Dix equation because it was first published in the classic article previously cited. The problem of multiple reflections on a seismic profile may complicate velocity interpretation. Only primary reflections may be used in these calculations. Some knowledge of the general stratigraphy of the area may permit the interpreter to choose the right reflections for the velocity interpretation.

NMO. One of the most useful aspects of seismic velocity is our ability to estimate it from, and use it on, seismic data. That is, given a reflection with the form ( X, Tx ), we can solve an equation for V NMO. We can then use that velocity to correct the reflection for normal moveout (flatten it). Normal moveout is the time (At) to remove from Tx such that Tx - At = To . To apply this correction to each trace within a CMP gather implies that Tx - At for each trace becomes equal to the traveltime for the trace with zero shot-to-geophone offset ( To ). This is one of the most important aspects of the seismic velocity manipulations because without it the reduction or stacking of CMP seismic data would be much more difficult.

ffect of dip on seismic velocity. So long as the dips of beds are small-no more than a few degrees-it is safe to assume that V NMO is approximately equal to V rms , provided that the earth fits our model. As dips increase to 5 - 10 degrees or more, the problem becomes more complex and the solution only approximate. For the single dipping layer model (Figure 6), it can be shown that VNMo equals V/cos 8. Since CMP data are the most common source of seismic velocities, CMP raypath geometry is used to develop the traveltime equation

Figure 6. Geologic model with single, dipping layer, constant velocity (V) .


Figure 7. Time-depth plot generated from seismic velocities and reflection times.

from seismic data are accurate to within a few percent and are useful for time-depth determination (V,) and migration (I/i ). However, any variation from the model may cause severe problems. Things such as dipping beds, and rapid lateral velocity changes within a layer can affect seismic velocity calculations. The most severe problem relates to inadequate static corrections applied to correct for variations due to weathering and elevation changes at the surface. The effect of these problems is to add or subtract a constant time (Ml) from the reflection time. The effect on calculated VW0 increases greatly for the deeper reflections. Such errors may often be compensated for by spatial smoothing. It also helps to have a few well-velocity surveys in the area. ime-depth plots from seismic data. The procedure for applying the interval velocities determined from seismic data is illustrated in Figure 7. Interval velocities (V,) calculated from the Dix equation are used to construct a time-depth plot similar to those obtained from well-velocity surveys. As shown in Figure 7, starting at the surface, interval thicknesses between adjacent reflectors are computed and added together to produce the depth (Z) of each reflector. That depth is plotted versus reflection time to produce the time-depth plot. Most velocity analysis programs automatically produce these plots. If these time-depth plots are to be used for reflection migration or time-to-depth conversion, they will probably need to be smoothed or averaged. Adjacent velocity profile gathers will often result in variations that are impossible geologically. Converting these profiles to a useful velocity field will require some form of spatial smoothing. An excellent way to smooth takes the form of an Iso-Depth plot, which is overlain on the seismic section. Then, smoothing may be performed in a geologically reasonable manner. It helps to be able to tie these smoothed time-depth plots to local well-velocity surveys. The resulting time-depth data may then be used effectively for seismic reflection migration and time-todepth conversion, which should result in geologically reasonable seismic data. IE NOVEMBER 1993 THE LEADING EDGE 1091