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400 Seismic methods

Because of inaccurate corrections, a change in reflection character or error in correlating across faults.
When the dip is different on the two sides of a fault or the throw varies along the fault, an incorrect
correlation across the fault may result in misclosures (but not necessarily). After the sources of
misclosure have been carefully examined and the final misclosure reduced to an acceptable level, the
remaining misclosure is distributed around the loop.
After horizons have been carried on the sections, maps are prepared. For example, we might
map a shallow horizon, an intermediate horizon at roughly the depth at which we expect to encounter
oil if any is present, and a deep horizon, We map on a base map which shows the locations of the
seismic lines (usually by means of small circles representing shotpoints) plus other features such as oil
wells, rivers, shorelines, roads, land and political boundaries, and so on. Values representing the depth
of the horizon below the datum plane are placed on the map (posted), usually at each shotpoint. Other
information relevant to the horizon being mapped (depths in wells, locations of gravity anomalies,
relevant geologic f information, etc.) is also posted. Faults which have been identified on the records or
cross-sections are drawn on the map and the depth values are then contoured.
Isopach maps which show the thickness of sediments between two horizons are useful in
studying structural growth. They are often prepared by overlaying maaps of the two horizons and
subtracting the contour values wherever the contours on one map cross the contours on the other. The
differences are recorded on a blank map and then contoured. If the contours show a trend towards
increased thicknes in a certain direction, it may suggest that the region was tilted downwards in this
direction during the period of deposition or that the source of the sediments is in this direction. Uniform
thickness of a folded bed indicates that the folding came after the deposition whereas if the thickness
increases away from the crest of an anticline, deposition probably was contemporaneous with the
growth of the structure. Growth during deposition is usually more favourable for petroleum
accumulation since it is more likely for reservoir sands to be deposited on the flanks of structures with
even slight relief.
(b)Drawing conclusions from reflection data. Structural traps, such as articlines and fault traps, and
structural leads (possibilities of traps which require more work to define them completely) are usually
evident from examination of the maps. Traps resulting from pinch-outs and unconformities are more
difficult to recognize and nonseismic evidence often must be combined with seismic data to define such
features. Nevertheless, careful study of the maps, sections and records plus broad experience and
ample imagination will at times disclose variations of dip or other effects which help locate traps of
these types.
After the structural information has been extracted, the next step is to work out as much as
possible of the geological history of the area.Fundamental in this connection is the determination of the
ages of the different horizons, preferably according to the geological time scale but at least relative to
one another. Often seismic lines pass close enough to wells to permit correlating the seismic horizons

With geotogical-horizons in the wells. Refraction velocities (if available) may help identify
certain horizons. Occasionally a particular reflection has a distinctive character which persists over large
areas, permitting not only it to be identified hut also other events by their relation to it. Notable
examples of persistent identifiable reflections arc the low-frequency reflections sometimes associated
with massive basement and the prominent reflection from the top of the Ellen- burger, a limestone
encountered in Northern Texas.
The unravelling of the geological history of the area is important in answering questions such as
the following: (a) Was the trap formed prior to, during, or subsequent to the generation of the oil and
gas? (b) Has the trap been tilted fufficiently to allow any trapped oil to escape? (c) Did displacement of
part of a structure by faulting occur before or after possible emplacement of oil? While the letsmic data
rarely give unambiguous answers to such questions, often clues can he obtained which, when combined
with other information such as surface geology and well data, permit the interpreter to make intelligent
guesses which improve the probability of finding oil. Alertness to such clues is the art of seismic
interpretation and often the distinction between an 'oil finder' and a routine interpreter.
When the interpretation is finally completed, a report is usually prepared, often both for
submission in writing and for oral presentation. In some ways this is the most difficult and most
important task of the interpreter. He must present his lings in such a way that the appropriate course of
action is defined as clearly as possible. The important aspects should not be obscured by presenting a
mass of detail nor should they be distorted by presenting carefully selected but non- reprensentative
maps and sections. Evidences to support significant conclusions should be given. Alternate
interpretations should be presented and and estimate given of the reliability of the results and
conclusions. Finally the interpreter should recommend what further action should be undertaken.
(c) Synthetic seismograms. If we assume that the shot and near surface produce certain
waveform (

in eq. (4.73a)), we can calculate the reflection wave from (gt in (4.73a)) which
would be recorded after modification because of passage through a sequence of layers with given
velocities and densities. The wave is to impinge on the first interface where its energy is partitioned
among transmitted and reflected waves. Each of the P-waves is then followed as it travels to other
interfaces where additional P-waves are generated, and so on.The resulting seismic record is simply the
superposition of those waves which are ultimately reflected back to the geophone station. Since Snell's
law determines ray paths and Zoeppritz equations determine energy relationships, the problem is
completely determined and the solution is straightforward. However,actually the problem is a
formidable task, even for modern computers, because of the tremendous number of waves generate for
a realistic sequence of layers; for the reason various simplifications are made. Usually horizontal
bedding is asumed and only the ray path normal to the reflecting section is tracked. Density

variations are frequently ignored so that the reflection and transmission coeffi- cients are based on
velocity changes only. Often small velocity variations are ignored and only the major contrasts are
considered, or else the small changes are lumped together into larger steps. Often multiples, especially
short-path multiples, are ignored. The result is called a synthetic seismogram.
In many areas the synthetic sdsmogram is a reasonable approximation to actual seismic records
and is therefore useful in correlating reflection events with particular horizons. Comparison of the
actual and synthetic seismograms may also help to determine which events represent primary
reflections and which multiples. Figure 4.109a shows a sonic log plotted to a time scale (rather than the
usual depth Scale) and fig. 4.1096 the synthetic seismogram which would result, assuming a certain
initial waveshape and neglecting multiples and changes in density. Figure 4.109c is a held recording
made in the same area; some events such as B, D and J correlate well with synthetic events but
elsewhere the correlation ranges from fair to poor. Figure 4.109d differs from fig. 4.109b in that simple
multiples are included; the principal differences are the appearance of a strong multiple at K -and
considerable reduction in the amplitude of F, presumably because of inter- ference between multiples.
This synthetic seismogram was made without shallow information; sonic logs are often not run in the
upper part of a borehole and consequently many of the most important effects cannot be modelled
A sonic long and a theoretical seismogram fail to have a one-to-one correspond ence not only
because of the approximations made in the calculation but also because the seismic wavelengths are so
much longer than the distances over which the acoustic properties can be assumed to be constant that
the actual seismic waveform is the interference composite of many more small events than the
computer takes into account. In fig. 4.109a the major changes in the sonic log (such as those
corresponding to B,D and J) produce distinct events on the synthetic record; however, in addition weak
indistinct events (such as F and G) result from many of the smaller velocity changes.
An important use of synthetic seismograms is in studying the effect of changes in the reflecting
layers on the seismic record. One might, for example, assume that a shale passes laterally into a sand
and determine how such a change would affect events on the record, possibly altering the number of
legs in a reflection event or changing some other characteristic. This might then provide a clue in looking
for ancient stream channels or other features of interest. Synthetic seismograms are important in
indicating the features which may help to identify stratigraphic traps. (d) Evidences of faulting. Ideally
reflection events terminate sharply as the point of reflection reaches the fault plane and resume again in
displaced positions on the other side of the fault; in addition, ideally the reflection has a sufficiently
distinctive character that the two portions on opposite sides of the fault can be recognized and the fault
throw determined. In practice diffractions usually prolong an event so that the location of the fault
plane is not clearly evident, although occasionally it is possible to observe sharp terminations.
Moreover, although sometimes the

same reflection can be identified unequivocally on the two sides of a fault, in the majority of
cases we can at best make only tentative correlations across faults.
The two record sections in fig. 4.110 join at their north and west ends at right angles. On the N-S
section (fig. 4.110a) the reflection band consisting of four strong legs marked can be readily
correlated across the normal fault which is down thrown to the south by slightly less than 2 cycles
(about 65 msec) at the 16 sec arrival time of this event. At a velocity of 2300 m/sec this represents a
vertical throw of about 75 m. The event near 2-3 sec (marked x) indicates a throw of about 3 cycles
(about 120 msec, the dominant frequency having become slightly

lower); at a velocity of 3000 m/sec this represents 180 m of throw so that the fault appears to
be growing rapidly with depth.
Although the evidence suggests that the fault is a simple break in the shallow section, at greater
depths there seems to be a fault zone with subsidiary faults (shown dashed in the figure). If the deeper
correlations across the fault(s) are correct, the downthrown event at 3-5 sec is found around 2-9 sec
on the up- thrown side; assuming a velocity of 4000 m/sec at this depth we get a vertical throw of 1200
The correlation across the fault for the shallow event in fig. 4.110a is based on reflection
character; for the deeper event it is based upon intervals between strong reflections, systematic growth
of throw with depth and time-ties around loops. Sometimes the displacement of an unconformity or
other recognizable feature will indicate the amount of throw. Often, however, the throw cannot be
determined clearly from the seismic data.
If the data in fig. 4. 110a are transformed into a depth section we get fig. 4.11 la; the component
of fault-plane dip in this section is around 53. Note that a fault which is nearly straight on a depth
section is concave upwards on a time section because of the increase in velocity with depth. If the fault
surface is actually concave upwards, the curvature will be accentuated on a seismic section. Where the

Fault was most active (indicated by the most rapid growth in fault throw), the fault surface is most
The fault has not completely died out by the north end of the line and hence the fault trace should
appear on the intersecting line (fig 4.110b). As picked on the
E-W section, the fault offsets the event at 16 sec by only about 30 m, indicating that the fault is dying
out rapidly toward the east. The fault plane has nearly as much dip in the E-W section so that the strike
of the fault plane near the intersection of the two lines is NE-SW and the fault plane dips to the
southeast. The true dip of the fault plane is about 60 (theapparent dip on sections is always less than the
true dip). Fault indications are not evident below about 2 sec on the E-W section so that the fault
appears to have died out at depth towards the east. in poorly consoPdatcd sediments such rapid dying
out of faults is common.
Several diffractions can be identified along the fault trace in fig. 4.110a between 1 -9 and 2-5 sec and
changes in the reflection dip are seen on both sides of the fault 1 trace; these are common evidences of
faulting. Other features which are often J observed but which arc not clearly evident on these sections
are various distortions J of data from events which passed through the fault plane and therefore
experienced velocity changes and consequent bending of the rays at the fault plane; this effect 1 is
often accompanied by deterioration in the data quality which sometimes is so

great that reflections may be almost entirely absent beneath the fault, causing a shadow zone.
Occasionally the fault plane itself generates a reflection but unless the data arc migrated it may not be
clear that the fault-plane reflection is associated with the fault. Fault-plane reflections are seen, in fig.
4.112 which crosses a basement horst. The variable thickness of the.portion of the section around 1*7
to 2-4 sec suggests unconsolidated sediments; faults often die out in such sediments where the fault
displacement becomes. accommodated hy flow (see the following section).
(e) Folded and flow structures. When subjected to stresses, rocks may fault; fold or flow, depending on
the magnitude and duration of the stresses, the strength of the rocks, the nature of adjacent rocks, etc.
The folding of rocks into anticlines and domes provides many of the traps in which oil and gas are found.
Figure 4.113 shows a migrated seismic section across an anticline. Some portions' such as A
which are composed of the more competent rocks (for example lime- stones and consolidated
sandstones) tend to maintain their thickness as they fold. Other portions such as B which contain less
competent rocks (often shales and evaporites) tend to flow and slip along the bedding, resulting in
marked variations in thickness within short distances. Geometry places limits on the amount of folding
which is possible and folded structures almost always involve faulting. Note at C how a fault is involved
with the folding. Arching places sediments under tension io that often they break along normal faults
and produce graben-rype features on the top. Anticlinal curvature tends to make seismic reflections
weaker as well as increase the likelihood of faulting and jiowage, so that data quality commonly
deteriorates over anticlines.
Salt flow often produces anticlines and domes. In many parts of the world thick salt deposits have been
buried fairly rapidly beneath relatively uncon- solidated sediments. The sediments compact with depth
and so increase their density whereas the salt density remains nearly constant. Thus, below some critical
depth the salt is less dense than the overlying sediments. Salt behaves like a very viscous fluid under
sufficien t pressure, and buoyancy inay result in the salt flowing rd to form a salt dome, arching the
overlying sediments and sometimes ig through them. Grabens and radial normal faults (whose throw
decreases ty from the dome) often result from such arching of the overlying sediments, relieving the.
stretching which accompanies the arching. Salt domes tend to along zones of weakness in the
sediments, such as a large regional fault, side of a salt dome may itself be thought of as a fault.
Figure 4.114 shows a seismic section across a salt dome. Shallow salt domes are to be so evident
that they can scarcely be misidentified. Because of thelarge . jnce contrast, the top of the salt dome (or
the cap rock on top of the dome) is a strong reflector. Steep dips may be seen in theiediments^dfacent
to the dome as a result of these having been dragged up with the salt The sediments often show rapid
thinning toward the dome. The salt is devoid of primary reflections, although multiples often obscure

feature, especially if AGC is used. Defining the flank of a salt dome precisely is often very
important economically and at the same time very difficult seismically. it Frequently the oil is in a
narrow belt adjacent to the flank of the dome but since the % flank is usually nearly vertical it rarely
gives rise to a recognizable reflection.Fortunately the velocity distribution is often only slightly affected
by the growth of the dome (except for the velocity in the salt and the cafp rock) so that the steep dips of
the sediments adjacent to the flanks can be migrated fairly accurately and the flank outlined by the
terminations of these reflections. Nevertheless, there remains much art and experience in defining salt-
dome flanks.
The salt in a salt dome generally has come from the immediately surrounding region. The
removal of the salt from under the sediments around the dome has thus allowed them to subside,
producing a rim syncline. The seismic data over such synclines are often very good and aid in mapping
the adjacent dome fay indicating the volume of salt involved, when movement took place (by sediment
thickening), etc. Such synclines may also help provide closure on neighbouring areas where the
sediments continue to be supported by residual salt.
Figure 4.115 contains several portions of a seismic line in the North Sea. The horizontal scale
has been compressed so as to display a long line on a short section, producing considerable vertical
exaggeration. This line shows deep salt swells which have not pierced through the overlying sediments
(fig. 4.115a), salt which has pierced through some of the sedimentary section (fig. 4.115b) and also salt
which has pierced all the way to the sea floor (fig. 4.115c). The reflection from the base of the salt is
generally continuous and unbroken but distortions produced by the variable salt thickness above it at
times interrupt this reflection. Because the salt velocity is greater than that of the adjacent sediments,
the base of the salt event appears to be pulled up where the salt is thicker. 'In other areas where the salt
velocity is lower than that of the surrounding sediments, flat reflectors beneath the salt may appear to
be depressed where the overlying salt is thicker.
Occasionally substances other than salt form flow structures. Poorly consolidat- ed shale may
flow, forming structures which strongly resemble salt domes on reflection sections; also, at times shale
flows along with salt, producing a salt dome with a sheath of shale.
(f) Mapping of reefs. The term 'reef' as used by petroleum geologists comprises a wide; variety
of types, including both extensive barrier reefs which cover large areas and small isolated pinnacle reefs.
It includes carbonate structures built directly by organisms, aggregates comprising limestone and other
related carbonate rocks, as well as banks of interstratified carbonate (and sometime also non-
carbonate) sediments. Reef dimensions range from a few tens of metres to several kilometres, large
reefs being tens of kilometers in length, a few kilometres wide and 200-400 m or more in vertical extent.
Because reefs vary so widely, the evidence for reefs shown by seismic data is extremely varied, We shall
describe a model reef so that we may develop the general criteria by which reefs can be recognized in
seismic data, keeping in mind that deviations from

the model may result in large , variations from these criteria. Our model reef develops in a tectonically-
quiet area characterized by flat-lying bedding which is more-or-less uniform over a large area, the
uniformity of the section makes it possible to attribute significance to subtle changds produced by the
reef which might go unnoticed in more tectonically-active areas. The reef is the result of the build-up of
marine organisms living in the zone of wave action where the water temperature is suitable for
sustaining active growth. The site of the reef is usually a topographic high which provides the proper
depth. Although the topographic high may be due to a structure in the underlying beds or basement,
such as a tilted fault block, more often it is provided by a previous reef; as a result, reefs tend to grow
vertically,' sometimes achieving thicknesses of 400 m or more and thereby accentuating the effect on
the seismic data. In order for the reef to grow upward, the base must subside as the reef builds upward,
maintaining its top in the wave zone as the sea transgresses. The reef may provide a barrier between a
lagoonal area (the backreef)and the ocean basin (theforereef),.sc> that sedimentation (and
consequently the reflection pattern) may be different on opposite sides of the reef. The surrounding
basin may be starved (that is, not have sufficient sediments available to keep it filled at the rate at which
it is subsiding); at times only one side, more often the ocean side of the reef, may be starved.
Alternatively, the reef may hot be a barrier to movement of the sediments a nd in this case it will be
surrounded by the same sediments on both sides. Erosion of thereefoften provides detritus for
deposition adjacent to the reef, resulting in foreset beds with dips up to 20. Eventually the environment
for the reef organisms will change so that they can no longer continue to live and build the reef f this
might come about because of changes in the water temperature, an increase in the rate of subsidence
so that the

ficiently between on-reef and off-reef spreads to localize the reef (Davis, 1972) The same velocity
difference may produce pseudc structure on reflecting horizons below the reef. Usually the velocity in
the reef limestone will be greater than that in the surrounding shales so that the reef will be indicated
by a time thinning between reflections above and below the reef and by a pseudo-high under the reef!
The magnitude of such an anomaly is small, usually less than 20 msec. Sometimes, however, the reef
may be surrounded by calcareous shales which have a higher velocity than that of the porous reef
limestone so that the time anomaly,is reversed. Reef evidences are often so small and .so subtle that
seismic mapping of reefs is feasible only in good record areas. Of the first importance is geological
informa- tion about the nature of the sediments and transgressive periods ofldeposjtion, so that one
knows beforehand in what portion of the section reefs.are more likely to occur . Similarities between
reefs and salt features cause problems at times The lagoon- al areas behind reefs often provide proper
conditions for evaporite deposition so that salt is frequently present in the same portion of the
sedimentary column. The amount of salt may not be thick enough to produce diapiric (flow) features but
differential solution of salt beds followed by the collapse of the overlying sediments into the void thus
created may produce seismic features which are similar in many ways to those which indicate reefs.
Use of velocity, tectonic stylf and amplitude information. With common- depth-point data which have a
high degree of redundancy (i.e., which sample the same depth point many times) and velocity-analysis
programs (4.7.7a), interval velocities can be calculated from eq. (4.57) for the intervals between
parallel reflectors at many points on the section - in fact, almost on a continuous basis. After due
allowance for the uncertainties involved in the measurements, systema- tic variations might be
interpreted in stratigraphic terms (Hofer and Varga, 1972). Carbonate and evaporite velocities are
sufficiently higher than clastic velocities (especially in Tertiary basins) that they can often be
The analysis of velocity data constitutes an important interpretation problem. As with other
interpretation problems, some interpretations can be ruled out because they imply impossible or highly
improbable situations. From experience we know that velocity does not vary in a 'capricious manner.
Thus it would be unreasonable to expect the velocity to vary from place .to place in other than a slow
systematic way unless the seismic section shows significant structural or other changes which suggest a
reason why the velocity should .change rapidly. Thus one might expect two velocity analyses to show
some differences, between portions of the section which are separated by a fault whereas one expects
little variation in portions which appear to be continuous. Likewise, interpreting an / increase in velocity
as a reef buildup in an otherwise clastic section niight .be Warranted if the increase is accompanied by
changes in reflection character and WJ structural evidence such as diffractions, or if the increase occurs
over deeper