Earth-Science Reviews 47 Ž1999. 189–218 www.elsevier.


Definition of subsurface stratigraphy, structure and rock properties from 3-D seismic data
Bruce S. Hart
) New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, Socorro, NM 87801, USA Received 2 February 1998; accepted 12 April 1999

Abstract This paper summarizes how three-dimensional Ž3-D. seismic technology is being used, primarily in the petroleum industry, to define subsurface structure, stratigraphy and rock properties. A 3-D seismic data volume: Ža. provides a more accurate image of the subsurface than can be obtained with 2-D seismic methods; Žb. is continuous, and so has a much greater spatial sampling than is obtained with 2-D seismic or other subsurface data Že.g., wells.; and Žc. can be viewed and interpreted interactively from a variety of perspectives, thus enhancing the interpreter’s ability to generate an accurate description of subsurface features of interest. Seismic interpretation was once the almost exclusive realm of geophysicists, however, most 3-D seismic interpretation today is conducted by multidisciplinary teams that integrate geophysical, geological, petrophysical and engineering data and concepts into the 3-D seismic interpretation. These factors, plus proper survey design, help to increase the chances of success of a 3-D seismic interpretation project. Although there are cases where the technology is not appropriate or cannot be applied Žfor economic reasons or otherwise., the general success of 3-D seismic has led it to become a mainstay of the petroleum industry. The approach and technology, first developed in that industry, have potential applications in other applied and fundamental earth science disciplines, including mining, environmental geology, structural geology and stratigraphy. q 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: seismic; petroleum; structure; stratigraphy; rock properties

1. Introduction Few technologies have affected a geoscience subdiscipline to the extent that three-dimensional Ž3-D. seismic has affected petroleum geoscience Žgeology and geophysics.. Like the field of seismic stratigraphy before it Žwhich more or less directly spawned sequence stratigraphy., 3-D seismic technology was developed in the petroleum industry and until re)

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cently has been utilized almost entirely within that field. However, potential applications of 3-D seismic data in other geoscience disciplines are many, including studies in structural geology, stratigraphy, geophysics and petrophysics. The mining industry has begun to investigate the potential of 3-D seismic to identify and map ore bodies, and to plan mine development ŽEaton et al., 1997.. Furthermore, it may be possible to transfer the technology cost-effectively to the environmental sector ŽSiahkoohi and West, 1998.. The cost and technical requirements of collecting

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B.S. Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218

and interpreting 3-D seismic data have prevented, until recently, most academic researchers from obtaining and utilizing them, although some 3-D seismic data have been collected to study deep crustal structure Že.g., Kanasewich et al., 1987, 1995. and others have been collected in conjunction with the ocean drilling program ŽShipley et al., 1994.. Changes within the petroleum industry that have been brought about by the use of 3-D seismic also have had a significant, albeit indirect, impact in other areas. One example is the use of computer workstations in data visualization. Some large 3-D seismic surveys contain gigabytes of data. Seismic interpreters have been pushing software and hardware developers to be able to visualize and interpret these enormous data sets interactively, and the hardware, software and concepts developed this way will have an impact on other earth science fields. The 3-D seismic revolution has helped to promote the development of multidisciplinary teams. Integration of seismic and geological data and concepts in workstation environments has been undertaken for at least a decade Žcf., Cross and Lessenger, 1988.. However, the continuous coverage provided by 3-D seismic data has revealed details of reservoir complexities that cannot be characterized using 2-D seismic and well control. Multidisciplinary teams in many companies integrate different data types and use the 3-D seismic workstation Žand derived products such as maps and volume interpretations. as focal points for their exploration and development efforts. In some regions and organizations, wells are not drilled without previously collecting and interpreting 3-D seismic data. Why have 3-D seismic and associated technologies had such a profound impact on the petroleum industry? What are the benefits of 3-D seismic? How does one acquire and interpret such data? This summary will address these questions, and present answers in terms that will be accessible to the geoscience community at large. The main purposes of this paper are: Ža. to illustrate how 3-D data are collected and interpreted in the petroleum industry, and Žb. to suggest how other subdisciplines of geoscience might exploit the technology. There are other developing fields of seismic technology, such as amplitude variation with offset, vertical seismic profiling, seismic inversion and cross-

well seismic technology that are often used in conjunction with 3-D data. It is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss these topics. Furthermore, a complete review of the principles of seismic surveying and interpretation will not be presented here. Instead, only those aspects that are germane to 3-D seismic collection, processing or interpretation will be presented here. Numerous other sources present information about the seismic method Že.g., Sheriff and Geldart, 1995.. Brown Ž1996a. dealt exclusively with 3-D seismic analyses, and Weimer and Davis Ž1996. presented many illustrative case studies of the use of 3-D seismic data, principally for petroleum exploration and development.

2. 3-D seismic acquisition and processing Like 2-D seismic studies, 3-D seismic data are acquired by generating an acoustic pulse at or near the surface Žland surface or sea surface., and recording the energy that is reflected from subsurface changes in physical properties Žspecifically, velocity and density.. Contacts between stratigraphic units having detectable changes in physical properties Žoften associated with the tops of formations, members, etc.. will cause reflections and be picked as seismic horizons 1 during the interpretation phase in order to discern structural and stratigraphic details of interest. On land, sources are typically vibroseis trucks or dynamite, and the receivers are geophones that detect ground motions. At sea, 3-D seismic surveys are collected using airgun arrays, with pressure sensitive hydrophones detecting the reflected energy. In almost all cases, it is compressional wave Ž‘‘p wave’’. energy that is recorded, although multicomponent 3-D surveys that include recording of shear wave reflections are becoming more common Že.g., Arestad et al., 1996.. With 2-D seismic data collection, sources and receivers are laid out along a line, and the reflected energy is assumed to come from a point mid-way between source and receiver Žthe common midpoint.


Italicized terms are defined in Appendix A.

B.S. Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218


along a vertical 2-D plane. In the case of horizontally layered strata, this assumption is valid. However, in areas where there is appreciable subsurface structure, reflected energy can be recorded from interfaces that

do not lie mid-way between sources and receivers. Seismic migration is a processing technique that attempts to reposition this reflected energy to its true subsurface location. The need for migration of 2-D

Fig. 1. Seismic modeling results showing an example of sideswipe and Fresnel zone effects associated with a reef. The upper image shows the model in map view, illustrating the locations of seismic transects shown below. The reef is visible in a seismic transect that is over 300 m to the side. Although the sections have not been migrated, 2-D migration will not be able to remove the sideswipe image of the reef from the transects ŽJackson and Hilterman, 1979; cited by Crawley Stewart, 1995.. Reproduced with permission from Hilterman.

. thus. more complex. The acquisition of 3-D seismic data exploits the spherical expansion of the acoustic pulse in the subsurface away from the source. In practice. Sample source and receiver layout for a land-based 3-D seismic acquisition program. Fig. and Brown Ž1996a. of the survey. Higher fold data. Increasingly though. 1994. and parallel to the orientation of the receiver lines. and maps or interpretations that are drawn from such seismic sections will be erroneous. By moving the shot location.. each survey typically consists of many parallel source lines and many parallel receiver lines that are oriented perpendicular to the source lines. In this way. innovative techniques such as using two vessels simultaneously. 3-D seismic data are generally acquired by ships towing airgun arrays and hydrophone streamers that sailed back and forth across the survey area. By moving the source location. It may be impossible to distinguish this sideswipe from reflections that are truly in the plane of the seismic profile.e. Note that the acquisition geometry shown in Fig. a rectangular grid of common midpoints is generated. Crawley Stewart Ž1995.. Other. Experience has shown that the fold of a 3-D survey needs only to be about one half the fold of a 2-D survey to obtain the same interpretability ŽB. 2. 1. Although there are many different designs that can be used. 2 is a gross simplification of real survey design.. In this simple case. producing a row of common midpoints that is perpendicular to the orientation of the source lines. Applied and theoretical examples of this problem have been presented by French Ž1974. At sea. sometimes called sideswipe. Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218 seismic data has been recognized from the early stages of seismic exploration ŽSheriff and Geldart. each shot is recorded by a line of receivers. reflections may be recorded from interfaces that are outside of the plane containing the source and receivers ŽFig. one common acquisition pattern spreads receiver groups out in lines that are oriented at 908 to the shot lines ŽFig. Reflections from each shot are recorded by many geophones. will result in a higher signal-to-noise ratio and therefore more interpretable seismic data. 1995. cannot be removed from seismic profiles using 2-D migration. all else being equal. increasing the number of source — receiver combinations that image a particular midpoint to build up the fold Žand data quality. of the survey. survey layouts are typically used in practice.. personal communication. The spacing between the midpoints in the receiver direction is one half the distance between the re- . Each shot is recorded by a patch of geophones. or implanting geophones on the sea floor. Hardage. individual midpoints are imaged by different combinations of sources and receivers.S. many source and receiver lines would exist.192 B... building up the fold Žor multiplicity . among others. Where subsurface structural or stratigraphic entities have a distinct three dimensionality Ži. These reflections. On land. a subsurface grid of common midpoints is generated. 2. many or most areas of geologic interest. are being developed and exploited.

the geoscientist can derive a much better understanding of the three dimensionality of subsurface stratigraphic and structural elements. In a variable density display Žtop and side of the cube. and are a function of acquisition parameters. This allows the interpreter to generate a more accurate subsurface description Ždepicted in maps. 1997. This display presents seismic traces as continuous curves that define a time series of positive Žpeaks. 3. Each trace in turn is divided into equal increments in the z direction that define the sampling interval. Conceptual diagram showing a 3-D data volume.. In this case. 4... y. the sampling interval is typically 2 or 4 ms.. These visualization technologies further aid the geoscientist in conveying the results of his or her work to others who have not been involved in the interpretation process.. 1996a.B. each midpoint represents an area or bin of 30 m = 30 m. Using modern computer graphics capabilities.. By acquiring continuous coverage of seismic data in three dimensions. For example.g. conceptually centered in the middle of the bin. if the distances between source and receiver locations are not identical. and the 3. The bin size might be rectangular. In this way. the standard display format was to use black and white variable area wiggle displays. Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218 193 ceivers. each of which stores a particular amplitude value ŽFig. For petroleum exploration purposes. y dimensions that are defined primarily by data acquisition operations.S. of as a series of cubes. the numerical amplitude values are represented by colours that are selected by the interpreter Žsee Fig. and negative Žtroughs. midpoints will be generated every 30 m = 30 m. The range of amplitudes depends upon how the data have been scaled. etc. and transects through a 3-D seismic volume will only show those features that are truly in the plane of the section Že. A drawback of the variable area wiggle display is that the eye tends to focus on the peaks. 3.. When seismic data were primarily viewed as paper sections. . assuming that source and receiver locations are both at 60 m intervals. Each bin in a 3-D seismic volume Žhaving x. The x and y dimensions of each voxel represent the bin size. Viewing 3-D seismic data Virtually. all else being equal. it is possible to visualize and interpret the seismic data in a variety of ways Žsee below. can be represented by a single seismic trace. As such... the data can be migrated in three dimensions. than by working with paper seismic displays andror well logs alone. or Õoxels Ža term analogous to the 2-D pixels of remote sensing. The result is that the 3-D seismic volume can be thought Fig. z coordinates and an amplitude value Žpositive and negative values. By exploring and visualizing both the data and interpretations in progress. rather than square. Each voxel in such a volume is characterized by x. amplitudes.. and the peaks are filled in with a solid black colour. while the spacing in the source direction is one half the distance between the source locations. all interpretation of 3-D seismic data is conducted on workstations or powerful personal computers ŽHart. reflection energy is accurately repositioned to its true subsurface location.. better image than an equivalent seismic transect derived using 2-D acquisition and processing. whereas the z dimension of a voxel represents the digital sampling interval. a vertical transect through a 3-D seismic volume is a more accurate. Brown.

Ža. Seismic data has traditionally been displayed as Õariable area wiggle displays Žleft. Peaks are filled in with black to enhance the interpretability of the seismic transect. Colour displays of seismic data. By displaying adjacent traces side by side. the display has the appearance of data continuity throughout the entire transect. respectively. Compare with the variable area wiggle display of the same transect Žc. in blues and reds with the darkness of each colour being proportional to the amplitude value. interpreters will choose other scales to enhance certain aspects of the seismic data. Whites correspond to zero amplitude. Variations in amplitude along a single reflector are also easier to detect.. in which the reflected energy is displayed as waveforms consisting of positive and negative amplitude values Žpeaks and troughs respectively.. 4. Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218 Fig. .194 B. the seismic traces are shown as Õariable density displays.. Computer graphics displays allow the amplitudes Žcenter.S. The colour display gives approximately equal weight to peaks and troughs Žblue and red. By removing the wiggle trace Žright. Žb. helping the interpreter to detect stratigraphic and structural features. to be colour coded so that positive and negative amplitudes are shown. respectively. Although the blue–white–red colour scale shown here is the most commonly used. Variable density display of a seismic transect.

S. but differ in that their location and orientation are decided by the interpreter in an interactive manner. in the inline or line direction. on which they wish to focus. arbitrary lines that represent transects through the data in any direction decided upon by the interpreter. depend on the software and hardware capabilities of the interpreter. to red troughs Žmore negative values as darker red. passing through white Žnear zero amplitudes. Arbitrary lines are used when the interpreter wishes to view the true geometry of structural or stratigraphic features that are oriented obliquely to the line or trace orientation Žsee below. The 3-D seismic data volume is stored in digital format. Vertical transects Vertical transects through a 3-D seismic volume ŽFig. but generally can be grouped into a few distinct categories that are discussed next. look like 2-D seismic profiles. on disk. The variable density display gives the appearance of reflection continuity throughout the entire 3-D volume ŽFig. information present in the troughs can be overlooked ŽBrown.. Žb. the interpreter can also zoom in on small portions of the seismic data. in the crossline or trace direction. .g. dim spots. The types of displays that can be generated ŽFig... or zoom out to see the larger structural and stratigraphic framework. variable density displays have become the norm. This latter process is akin to using a formation top or log pick as a datum to construct a stratigraphic cross-section Žusing well logs or outcrops. bright spots. or when wishing to tie borehole log information from more than one well by integrating with the seismic data.B. Other colour schemes can be generated by interpreters to highlight specific aspects of the seismic data Že... One commonly employed colour scheme shows peaks as blue Žwith stronger positive values being shown as darker blue. The arbitrary line may consist of a single transect or a series of continuous transects that zigzag their way through the data set Žsometimes called a multipanel display.. Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218 195 Fig. 5.1. 1996a. rather than being constrained by the original seismic survey line orientation as is the case for 2-D data. rather than generating a structural cross-section. 4 Žcontinued. Most software packages allow the user to quickly display vertical transects: Ža. Since the data are stored digitally. the data can be flattened on a selected horizon to more clearly view true stratigraphic relationships in areas that have been structurally deformed. 5a–d. and Žc. 3. 4. With vertical transects. With the advent of interactive computer displays. In this display.. the peaks and troughs are arbitrarily assigned distinct colours.

. 6. Different types of 3-D seismic displays that can be viewed during an interactive interpretation session. Že. represent a slice through the data at a given two-way traveltime ŽTWT.196 B. In this case. 7a.S. cube display. 5. Fig. With the advent of automatic horizon tracking and interfacing of seismic interpretation with mapping packages Žsee below. b. constant z coordinate. amplitudes or abrupt changes in seismic reflection character ŽFig. relatively undeformed basins. time structure maps can. The display is somewhat analogous to a geologic map. Žh..e. See text for discussion. is a function of the stratigraphic dip Žfor a constant thickness. and others recommended using time slices for horizon interpretation. the thickness of the reflection from a given stratigraphic unit on the display Žmap. perspective display. in most circumstances.. 6. known as time slices.. The difference is that instead of viewing how stratigraphic units intersect the ground surface Žwhich may or may not be planar.3. Fig. Typically. Ža. Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218 Fig. Fig. 7c. the interpreter sees how the seismic manifestation of the stratigraphy intersects an arbitrarily selected plane of constant TWT through the seismic data. Žg. Žd.. Žc. reducing the ambiguity inherent in interpreting fault locations and orientations from 2-D seismic or well data Žsee below. Line and trace transects that correspond to source and receiver line orientations. and ‘‘thickness’’ Žfrequency. however. Horizontal sections These displays.. arbitrary transect. of the reflection event Žfor a given structural dip. higher frequency events will appear thinner. The utility of time slices for horizon interpretation is greatest when beds have a pronounced dip. most interpreters tend to concentrate their use of these displays on interpreting faults — especially where stratigraphic dips are small Ži. be generated just as readily by basing most interpretation on vertical sections.b. Although Brown Ž1996a. Time slice displays show faults as curvilinear features that display lateral offsets of reflections. horizon mapping on time slices can be a quick way of generating time structure maps for those horizons.2. faults can be traced laterally for considerable distances on time slices. 5e and Fig.. Horizonr fault and map displays These displays show characteristics of horizons or faults that have been interpreted in a seismic volume. Žf. multipanel display. In both cases. 3. thus. horizon slice.. a less steeply dipping bedrreflection will appear wider.. Fault interpretation and correlation can be significantly improved by interactively working with time slices and vertical slices together. time slice. 3.

g. Time structure of an interpreted horizon. under some circumstances. Ž1989. sand on shale contact. leading to a more accurate interpretation than could be generated using 2-D seismic data. Enachescu. offshore Gulf of Mexico. 8. and interpreters will examine map displays of the amplitude of seismic horizons in order to look for stratigraphic or structural features that might be hydrocarbon traps.S. present an example of the use of fault slices to examine fault sealing capabilities of Tertiary faults in the Niger Delta area. it might be possible to judge whether a fault is a barrier to fluid flow Že.... 5f. is perhaps the most commonly viewed display. or not Že. areas with subtle closure that could act as hydrocarbon traps.. If desired. 1994. 6. Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218 197 Fig. the seismic amplitudes associated with particular stratigraphic horizons can be of significance Že. sand on sand. showing locations of faults. In this way. that might otherwise be overlooked.. By generating fault slices in both the hanging wall and footwall..g. By interpreting the faults on both vertical transects and time slices. the potential for miscorrelation is reduced. Note curvilinear trends of reflection character offset that correspond to faults viewed in vertical sections.B. the interpreter can interactively adjust the colour scale bar to detect structural relationships Že. Displays of horizon amplitudes are sometimes called horizon slices ŽFig. 1993. Brown. folds and structural dips. be identified using seismic amplitudes Že..g. Hardage et al. Structural contours can be superimposed onto amplitude displays in order to allow the interpreter to easily search for relationships between these two data types ŽFig. Bouvier et al. Channel sandstones and other stratigraphic features can also. For example.g. . along the entire fault plane. In many areas. ‘bright spots’ are associated with hydrocarbon accumulations in some areas.. the juxtaposition of lithologies across the fault can be assessed. 1996a.g... They allow the interpreter to view spatial relationships in two dimensions. Time slice through 3-D seismic volume.

on top of the 3-D surface to more easily evaluate. Other interÕal attributes. Cube displays This type of display ŽFig. Although strictly not related to one horizon.. or depth Žisopach. helping to corroborate the interpretation and increase the attractiveness of this area as a drilling target Žsee Vincelette and Chittum. however. The data may be ‘clipped’ in various ways to visualize specific aspects of the data set that will assist in the interpretation. views that can be rotated to help the interpreter assess spatial relationships in 3-D. reflection frequency on the thickness of a reflection viewed on a time slice.4. can. Illumination angles and opacity might also be adjusted to help detect subtle structural trends.. possible relationships between amplitudes and structure. or other features such as pinnacle reefs. associated with thick accumulations of aeolian Jurassic Entrada Formation. in time units. 9.. Strong peak above the Entrada is the Todilto Formation Žgypsum and limestone. 8. between two stratigraphic horizons. Most cube displays show the faces of the data volume. they can be employed to quality check interpretations — for example. etc.. in time Žisochrons. 5g.198 B. It would not be possible to pinpoint the optimal drilling location for these types of buildups. while data behind those faces remain out of Fig. 3. and top to bottom. the interpreter can quickly get an intuitive feel for the broad scale stratigraphic and structural configuration of a study area before beginning detailed interpretation. and Žb.S. Time structure contours of the Entrada horizon superimposed on horizon slice of the formation. for example. stratigraphic dip. allows the interpreter to view the seismic data as a volume. can also be viewed and interpreted in this fashion. quality checking the result. These. 1981. Ža. for a description of the seismic character of Entrada reservoirs.. to ensure that horizon or fault picks are physically plausible. 3. Adapted from Brown Ž1996a. Horizon attributes Ždiscussed below. then contouring the data. it may be possible to superimpose ‘attributes’ such as seismic amplitude. Contours were generated by picking the horizon on seed lines. Additionally. By scrolling through the data cube Žfront to back. be made on the faces of the data cube. New Mexico. Schematic diagram illustrating the effects of: Ža. and other interval attribute analyses are some- Fig. . showing classic ‘‘doublet’’ response Žtroughs. etc. autotracking the horizon throughout the survey area. isochrons Žthickness. these deposits can form attractive drilling targets. such as the maximum amplitude between two horizons. PerspectiÕe displays This type of display ŽFig. faults and well data as 3-D perspective Žisometric. Vertical transect through 3-D seismic volume from the San Juan Basin. map displays are also employed to view thickness. The amplitude of the Todilto reflection decreases over the crest of the buildup Žlower amplitudes shown in lighter greys. Interpretations Žfault and horizon. Although small. With some interpretation packages. meandering channel sands. The contours suggest a thick build-up of the dune deposits along the lower margin of the survey area. with this degree of confidence using 2-D seismic or well control alone. shows horizons.. units. 5h and Fig.. Žb. 7.5. left to right. are also viewed in map views. Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218 times employed in a ‘quick look’ fashion to identify stratigraphic configurations or rock properties elements that warrant detailed investigation.

The objective is to facilitate the 3-D viewing and interpretation of subsurface features. Voxel rendering technologies allow the interpreter to make specific ranges of amplitudes transparent. when planning a deviated wellbore so that it penetrates multiple pay zones that manifest them- . Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218 199 sight.B.S. for example. that have specific amplitude characteristics. such as bright spots associated with hydrocarbon accumulations. This type of display can be especially useful. leaving only particular ranges of amplitudes visible.

200 B. Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218 .S.

as a purely exploration tool.. en- gineering data. 9. It should be noted that although the vertical resolution of seismic data Žgenerally. decimeter scale in logs. The establishment of development drilling plans Žfinding infill and step out drilling sites.59 km2 . particularly by large companies. 4. This is because experience has shown that the ambiguity inherent in the seismic method Ždue to limitations on vertical and lateral resolution and the non-uniqueness of the seismic response.g. the continuous subsurface coverage in a 3-D survey provides much better spatial control for mapping. who have not been active in the interpretation process.5 m bins. structure and rock physical properties... typical development drilling density might be 16 wells per section Ž2. As is the case with the other types of displays. application of these technologies is not widespread. and a time slice on the top face. Typically. . investors. A 3-D seismic survey over that same area might have 33. There is increasing use of 3-D seismic data. the principal objectives of a 3-D seismic survey are definition of subsurface stratigraphy. Virtual reality technologies are being explored that allow the interpreter to view the data in 3-D or even to ‘‘enter’’ the seismic volume ŽDorn. Having this information ‘up front’ allows the interpretation team members to better exploit the massive amounts of data available to them in the 3-D seismic volume. but the front face has been cut to show an east–west transect about 2r3 of the way into the volume. Combination displays Some software applications allow several different types of data and interpretations to be visualized together Že. an interpretation is not viewed so much as a ‘final product’ as a ‘work in progress’ that is to be updated and revised as new data become available through drilling. Entire data set showing east–west and north–south vertical transects along the front and right side faces of the cube. yielding 16 ‘control points’ Žwells with wireline logs. in North America. showing only a limited part of the survey area.1.6.... 1997. The result is that the 3-D seismic survey has 144 times more control points for mapping than even the relatively tightly spaced wells ŽRay. Sample cube displays. so that some subsurface control Že. 1998. 4. is much more accurate than mapping based on interpretation between even densely spaced wells or 2-D seismic data. co-workers. Žb. as yet unproductive. Fig.. Ža. can be reduced by integrating geologic and petroleum engineering data and concepts ŽFig. is not as great as wireline logs or core Žmillimeter scale in core. the objective is to help the interpreter to visualize the geology. As such.g. Entire time range is shown. the stratigraphic interpretation of a 3-D seismic volume typi- Fig. Interpreting 3-D seismic data In the petroleum industry. only features 10 m or more in thickness will be resolved. 1995. the interpreter can quickly assess changes in stratigraphic and structural style with location and depth.. engineering and other types of data in 3-D. looking for other. and some seismic data together.g. most 3-D seismic interpretation is conducted by members of multidisciplinary teams that are composed of geologists. however. interpreted horizons. yielding 2304 control points in the same area. management. Most such data sets are collected from areas of existing production. stratigraphic intervals. For example. geophysicists and engineers ŽHart. in that area. although most interpreters will also use the data for exploration purposes Že. 10. By interactively scrolling through a data cube such as this.. Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218 201 selves as bright spots at distinct stratigraphic levels. For example. it may be desirable to examine well paths. paleontological data..5 m = 33.. 3.. Žc. exists already.S. is a common application of 3-D seismic. Another important component is that these displays help the interpreter to present hisrher results to others Že. Stratigraphic interpretation As with a 2-D seismic interpretation. respectively. As with other subsurface studies.B. 11. but the top face has been cut down about 3r4 of the way into the volume. However. Entire area of survey is shown. wireline logs.g. mapping of stratigraphic and structural features using 3-D seismic Žprovided that they can be detected seismically.

and the locations of the 3-D seismic data sets Žyellow and red grid at bottom. two interpreted horizons from the seismic data Žblue. a portion of a 3-D seismic cube Žback.S.. Combination display showing a 2-D seismic line Žleft.... coming down from top.. a voxel display of a 2nd 3-D volume Žgreens and yellows. colour.. 2-D seismic lines Žblue. at bottom. and wells Žred dots at bottom. right. some well logs Žblue. Figure courtesy of Landmark Graphics.202 B. pink. . multidisciplinary teams can make better drilling and reservoir management decisions. By integrating different types of data and interpretations into single displays such as this. 10. Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218 Fig. grey tones.

.. Depending on the . Picking a horizon on every line in a 3-D volume can be a labour intensive task. 1977. Clinoforms.. Under ideal conditions. it might be possible to autotrack a horizon based on a single seed point. core and biostratigraphic data Že. Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218 203 Fig. From these initial seed points. reef complexes or other stratigraphic entities are studied using conventional seismic stratigraphic criteria Že.g. using available velocity data. To do so. Once time structure maps have been derived. to the seismic data using Õelocity surÕeys.g. horizons are interpreted on a grid of vertical transects. Mitchum et al. Once a stratigraphic framework has been established. 1995. Õertical seismic profiles andror synthetic seismograms Že.. Experience shows that it is only through integration of the technology with other data types that the true potential of 3-D seismic technology is realized. arbitrary lines through a seismic volume will be selected to examine the true longitudinal and cross-sectional geometries of clinoforms.g. the results of the autotracking need to be checked and manually edited where necessary. the horizons are converted to true depths Že. 1987. it is possible to superimpose wireline logs directly over the seismic data in vertical transects in order to help merge geologic Žlogs. Sarg. From Hart Ž1997..S. The grid of manual horizon picks forms a network of seed points. reflection character analysis. The finished horizon pick should be both geologically and geophysically defensible. meters. Bar graph showing responses of 133 seismic interpreters when asked about the need to integrate geologic and engineering data and concepts into a 3-D seismic interpretation.g. such as by defining and mapping flooding surfaces. in areas of high noise or geologic complexity it may not be possible to autotrack a horizon at all.. parasequences. channels and other features. some time-depth conversion information is required. 1997. channels. detailed stratigraphic analyses Žseismic facies analysis. are conducted on those intervals that are judged to be of particular stratigraphic importance. Sheriff and Geldart. data and concepts ŽFig. 12.. and by integrating all available log. Conversely. 11. from which the software will attempt to track a pick of similar phase and amplitude throughout the seismic volume. and so most software packages have an autotracking application that can be employed to automate the process. unconformities or other significant and definable horizons. Hart et al.. In any case. helping to ensure a consistent interpretation. cally begins by tying wireline logs Žgeologic data.. With most software packages. and geophysical Žseismic.B. The grid allows the user to ‘box in’ the picks.. such as a continuous reflection that has significantly higher amplitude than surrounding events. Where line or trace orientations are oblique to stratigraphic trends.

1996a. Time and horizon slices can help the interpreter to identify and map features such as fluvial channels.. 12... confirming the interpretation shown in B–B . Structure map Žlower left. Brown. 13. identify facies associations or stratal surfaces. clean carbonates. Log curve shows g-ray Žincreasing to the right. higher g-ray. A seismic transect in the inline direction ŽA–A . Although the fault is readily apparent. Hardage et al. This latter display clearly X shows reflection continuity from one block to the other. By viewing an arbitrary line that is perpendicular to the fault orientation ŽB–B . dolomitic sandstones and siltstones. 1996. knowledge of the distribution of these depositional features can help to identify or predict sedimentary facies distributions.. Example of a seismic view with well log overlay. deltaic lobes ŽHart et al. 1997. the fault geometry becomes clearer. these displays can help to guide correlations from well to well. 1993. does not clearly show the subtle fault on the southwest. and even meteorite impact structures ŽIsaac and Stewart.g. . and thus the location of reservoir quality rock or barriers or baffles to subsurface fluid flow that might compartmen- Fig. Seismic transect shows basinward progradation Žto left. and the location of prominent reflections.S. Example from New York State Žsee Hart et al. a multipanel display was chosen that goes around the fault pinchout to the north ŽC–C –C . 1994. of mixed siliciclasticrcarbonate Permian shelfrslope in Delaware Basin. SE New Mexico. This might be the X orientation of a 2-D seismic line. types of logs employed. As such.. sinkholes. identify fluid contacts.. thus. Note good correspondence between lithology contrasts as indicated by logs Žlow g-ray. etc. with true well position indicated by vertical white lines.. Že. Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218 Fig. of a horizon suggests the presence of a small NW–SE trending graben Ždarker greys are structurally X lower areas. both log and seismic.. This type of display is used to help verify picks. it may not be clear from this view how the horizons correlate from one fault block X Y to another..204 B. In the petroleum industry..

S.B. Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218 205 .

Ža.206 B. Dip map. 14. showing variability in dip amount for the surface Ždarker s greater dip. so that surfaces dipping to the SW appear dark. Two different horizon attribute maps for the same seismic horizon.S. Light source is from the upper right ŽNE. showing which way the horizon is dipping. . Azimuth map. Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218 Fig.. These maps show linear trends that indicate the presence of subtle faults which were not evident when interpreting vertical transects through this data volume. Žb..

2. etc. As with stratigraphic interpretation. the interpreter needs to understand the fault geometry Žnormal. showing subtle faulting indicated by curvilinear trends of low coherence Ždark. and other displays will all be utilized together during the structural interpretation procedure. time structure maps. . Conversely. have a significant beneficial impact on structural interpretations ŽFig. Continuity cube Žsimilar to a Coherency Cubee. vertical sections. time slices. 15. these cubes help interpreters to recognize subtle structural features that otherwise might be undetected in vertical sections and time slices. and the results of interpretation on one display can be viewed and used to guide fault picking on the other. Stratigraphic features. reverse. and poor data quality area. vertical transects. As with a stratigraphic interpretation. it is not possible to calculate throw on a fault without being able to identify common horizons on either side of the structure. Faults can be interpreted on both time slices and vertical transects. such as channels and reefs.S. 4. can also sometimes be delineated with continuityrcoherency cubes. and horizon displays will be evaluated simultaneously to assess a given prospect. Structural interpretation Structural and stratigraphic interpretations necessarily feed off one another. to correlate a horizon from one side of a fault to the other.B. 13. For example.. As with the horizon attribute maps. Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218 207 talize reservoir.. The ability to view arbitrary lines through the seismic volume can. Typically.. the structural interpretation begins by identifying the large Fig. as with stratigraphic interpretation.

Faults can generally be detected when the throw is greater than 1r4 the wavelength ŽSheriff and Geldart. Values of selected attributes are extracted from the bins that correspond to well locations. which can be interactively rotated. In other cases. Many inversion algorithms have been developed. Structure generally shows a dip from upper right to lower left. The thickest porous section Ž) 20 m.. directly from reflection seismic data continues to be a field of significant interest. 1996. Dalley et al. Fig. velocity.S.g. Depending on the orientation and dip of the fault with respect to stratigraphic horizons. Seismic inversion is a technique that attempts to reconstruct the subsurface physical properties distribution. Lindseth.. 1997a. allows the interpreter to view statistical relationships between three variables.. In some cases. 14.. This type of interactive data exploration can help the interpreter to seek out correlations between seismic attributes and log-based physical properties. 1996a. 1994. Accordingly. The size of the data point is proportional to its closeness to the observer. Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218 scale faults. then successively mapping finer details. When the waveshape for a trace in a given time window is similar to that for adjacent traces.g. 1979. interpreters generally attempt to constrain the inversion process with physical property information Ždensity. as might be expected when the stratigraphy is continuous across an area. it is used to assign rock properties to other areas within the 3-D survey area that lack well control.. . generates a seismic attribute that quantifies the similarity between a given seismic trace and its neighbours ŽBahorich and Farmer. any particular one of these displays might help to detect subtle structures that might have a significant impact on subsurface fluid flow. although some porosity also appears to be present on the seaward flank Žbottom. is located beneath the structural culminations in this Jurassic shelf margin carbonate buildup Žcenter of map. Ža.. Hoetz and Watters. Weimer and Davis. with structurally high areas being the lightest.e. ranging from 08 to 3608. Fig. and by integration with other data types Že. Multiple regression techniques can be used to improve the correlation between seismic attributes and reservoir properties. 15..3. — possibly as talus accumulations. Badgett et al. This numerical measure is somewhat analogous to the ‘reflection continuity’ that seismic interpreters have been employing qualitatively for many years. Relationships might be sought out between a reservoir property and several attributes. typi- cally cube displays or time slices are considered to be most revealing ŽFig.g.. 1995. the 3-D graph.. This type of data is derived from a 3-D seismic volume. azimuth Ži.. but the inversion process itself provides non-unique solutions — sometimes many different stratigraphic successions could have produced a given seismic section. Empirical. no correlation is present ŽAttribute 1.. Hesthammer and Fossen.208 B.. See Hart and Balch Ž1998. 1995. The underlying grey scale shows structure. quantitative derivation of rock properties from seismic attributes. usually directly from the processed seismic traces Že. for further discussion. Linear and polynomial regression approaches might be tried. Žc. a 2nd order multiple regression based on three attributes Žnot the three shown in Ža. derived from well control. When there are significant differences between traces. and crossplotted against well-derived measurements. the coherency attribute calculated at that position is high. as might be expected where the stratigraphy is offset by faulting. has been employed to derive the thickness of the reservoir interval having a porosity greater than 12% Žcontours. Coherency Cubee processing Žand similar techniques. Brown. Subtle faults that are not easily recognized on vertical transects can sometimes be detected by generating and examining horizon attributes Že. Here... 4. the direction that the surface is pointing. 1992. 3-D seismic analyses can often result in structure maps that are significantly different from structure maps based on 2-D seismic andror well control.. numerical relationship between seismic attributes and rock properties has been established. and other properties. such as porosity or fluid saturation. 16. These can include dip Žin msrm. This attribute can very precisely and quickly reveal the location of subtle faults or stratigraphic features that might be otherwise missed. 1989. and can be viewed in the same way. there might be a negative correlation between attributes and log properties ŽAttribute 2. Acoustic impedance volumes are generated for interpretation in this way. or a positive correlation between the two ŽAttribute 3. That these maps truly are more accurate than the original maps has been empirically Žand frequently.. demonstrated by drilling results. Rock properties Definition of subsurface rock properties. edge detection Žemphasizing discontinuities.. Once an empirical... the coherency is low. Here. Žb.

B. Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218 209 .S.

Additionally.. and Žb. Ž1997. This is true regardless of how the prediction is derived. A prediction of reservoir properties based on a quantitative. should be an important consideration when interpreting such data.S. The complex trace attributes potentially contain information about the physical properties of the rocks being imaged seismically. the interpretation team might have a large number of wells to work with. 1996b. or large offsets in deviated wells are present. there is a certain amount of ambiguity in the interpretation of seismic data Ž2-D or 3-D. fluid content. and interpreters’ . the correlation between the attributes and physical properties must be statistically significant. Schultz et al. especially if the wells are old Žand poorly surveyed. processing and other variables. will help to assess the risk associated with drilling a specific prospect.. Second. Integration As is the case with any subsurface data.. First and foremost. and neural networks first to derive the relationships. The location of boreholes might be known only to within a range of bins. geostatistics. From these wells. including multiple regression. but possibly spurious. then test the predictions of their work against the data from the excluded wells Že..4. reflector geometry. the ability to link log-derived physical properties from individual wells to a specific traces in a spatially continuous 3-D seismic volume. the degree of vigour with which 3-D seismic interpreters are currently deriving and exploiting them ŽHart. 1994.. Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218 Complex trace attributes. but the direct relationship between the rock properties and seismic attributes may be practically impossible to derive from first principles.g. 1997. new or small fields. Seismic amplitudes are the most readily imaged and qualitatively interpreted attribute ŽEnachescu. 4.. in the exact borehole location or seismic noise. can make it difficult to assess whether basic statistical assumptions that underpin the utilization of these methods are violated. growing numbers of interpreters are attempting to correlate seismic attributes empirically with reservoir physical properties measured by borehole logs ŽSchultz et al. The most prudent approach to assessing these predictions is to view them as working hypotheses that: Ža. Although the analysis of these attributes is not new. correlation ŽKalkomey.. Matteucci Ž1996. such as amplitude. 16.. Ideally. they can randomly exclude some from the calibration process.. are currently being analyzed and exploited qualitatively in the hopes that they contain information about the physical properties of the rocks being imaged. instantaneous frequency. help to determine the robustness of the correlation.. 1996. 1977.. including the vertical resolution and non-unique response of seismic data. and others have identified several aspects that need to be considered when adopting this approach. acquisition and processing programs. These limitations are the product of many factors. This approach may not be feasible in areas of limited well control Že. that cannot be removed by working with it alone. seismic amplitudes can be affected by changes in porosity. Hirsche et al.. 1993. with seismic attributes derived from the traces that correspond to the boreholes. Brown. Using several adjacent bins in the correlation exercise can. The objective is to try to correlate physical properties. empirical relation- ship is of limited value if the correlation coefficient is too low. and Žb. either individually or collectively. 1997. Nonuniqueness of response Že. for example. One of the fundamental questions that should be asked of any rock properties prediction is whether the result makes geologic sense. the number of attributes that can be generated is great.. can be related to: Ža.210 B. the direct way in which large amounts of digital data can be analyzed. Using a relatively new technique.g. increasing the probability that there will be at least one statistically significant. Different methods are being utilized or developed. or the strength of the statistical correlation.g. Hardage et al. the relationship should be statistically robust and take into account uncertainties. and then to distribute properties throughout the area of the seismic survey ŽFig. bed thickness.. will need to be revised as new information becomes available. reflection strength and instantaneous phase and many others ŽTanner and Sheriff. provided that the reservoir is homogeneous enough. Finally. although other attributes are exploited in a qualitative way as well Že. 1994.g. as measured from borehole logs. pointed out that limited well control or biased sampling Žonly specific facies might be drilled.

. relatively inexpensive PCbased data visualization and interpretation packages are making interpretation capabilities Žat least the more commonly used applications. provide direct hydrocarbon indicators. As noted previously. Case studies presented by Badgett et al. 1997. although applications of the technique to monitor steamfloods or CO 2 injection programs have also been undertaken ŽD. 1997. Additionally. Ž1997. stratigraphy and sediment Žor rock.g. core.. Eaton et al. This type of analysis seeks to find differences in amplitude Žor other attributes.. and other data types.. middle 1980s fueled interest in the technology. most interpreters recognize that their seismic interpretations need to be integrated with geologic and engineering data and concepts in order to maximize the benefit that they derive from a 3-D seismic volume ŽHart. performed cost–benefit analyses to examine when the technology can be cost-effective in the mining industry.g. Ž1994. wireline log. Dorn et al. Lumley. 1996. in crystalline terranes scattering effects from localized bodies are of paramount importance. but this type of activity is not yet commonplace ŽHart. of the ensuing drilling success attributable to 3-D seismic has gone unreported in the scientific literature Žthere are many case histories in trade journals. 1972.1... 1979. These same types of benefits should be realizable in any geoscience discipline where the objective is to characterize properly subsurface structure. Documentation of 3-D seismic success stories in the late 1970s Že. 1994. Anderson et al. This approach is most widely used where amplitudes Žbright spots. 1987.. if not most. Hardage et al. production and other analyses to generate holistic reservoir models. 1997. Although much. core.S. 1996. 1997. largely due to the precision and accuracy with which stratigraphic and structural elements can be identified. and may therefore be of greater interest in the mining industry than migrated volumes ŽEaton et al. For example... Greaves and Fulp. properties. 1998. pressure and production data are integrated with sequence stratigraphic.. rather than layered sedimentary successions.g... forward modeling. personal communication.g.. Haldorsen and Damsleth. Rafalowski et al.. although recent experi- 5. 1974. possibly including wavelet extraction. French. from a given reservoir that might be visible in successive 3-D seismic surveys covering the same area.B. the worth of the technology is empirically demonstrated by a single statistic that shows the extent to which the petroleum industry has begun to focus on the technology: by the end of 1996. 1996.. Ž1994. and Hart et al. West. Cost was initially considered to be an obstacle to the application of 3-D seismic in the environmental industry ŽHouse et al. Ž1997. Ideally.. it would be possible to export a 3-D reservoir model populated with physical properties directly from the seismic analyses into a reservoir simulator. The application and development of this technology has had a tremendous impact on the petroleum industry. Ž1996. to . illustrate how 3-D seismic. 1993. Unmigrated 3-D seismic volumes can help interpreters to recognize scattering anomalies produced by features such as ore bodies. phase correction and other steps. can be employed to add confidence to the ties between seismic and well data Že. 5. accessible to greater numbers of potential users. wireline log... and also examined some of the technical considerations related to seismic imaging in plutonic environments.. mapped and drilled Že.. they noted that while most reflection seismic processing is geared towards enhancing continuous features such as bedding. and then to relate these differences to changes in pore fluids that are due to production or enhanced recovery operations Že. As such. Discussion First conceived within large petroleum companies in the early 1960s. the integrated study might include paleontologic.. 3-D surveys accounted for nearly 75% of all seismic acquisition ŽSociety of Exploration Geophysics. production. Detailed analyses of the seismic data themselves. seismic attribute. Non-petroleum applications The cost of acquiring and processing 3-D seismic data is no doubt the greatest impediment to the development of more widespread application of the technology. Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218 211 skills or biases. Integration is a key component in the developing field of time-lapse or 4-D seismic analyses. it was not until the 1970s that 3-D seismic concepts were publicly presented ŽWalton. Sibley and Mastoris.

for example. These types of analyses traditionally have been based on 2-D analyses Žseismic or outcrop.g. 3-D seismic technology Žlike any technology. of these structures without 3-D seismic data. much energy is lost through attenuation as the acoustic pulse . possibly leading to erroneous reconstructions of depositional histories Že.212 B. Hart and Long. e. much energy is scattered at this contact and the implementation of certain key processing steps becomes problematic. especially in hydrogeology where aquifers are structurally or stratigraphically complex. By providing a continuous and accurate image of the subsurface. 5. Problems associated with obtaining high quality shallow seismic data Žespecially in the vadose zone. despite its general applicability. For this reason. Additionally. In shallow earth applications. Experience in the petroleum industry has shown that many structural interpretations based on 2-D seismic are wrong. Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218 mental studies are suggesting otherwise ŽSiahkoohi and West. the lateral continuity provided by 3-D seismic will help stratigraphers to better understand the controls of local processes such as reactivation of basement tectonic elements. and case studies that document the true 3-D geometry and evolution of real fault arrays are rare. it will not be possible to derive the true 3-D geometry Žand evolution. many studies have shown that stratal geometries derived from 2-D seismic profiles can be misleading. There are areas where good quality seismic data Ž2-D or 3-D. fault geometries are oversimplified. As an ‘academic’ discipline.. and autocyclic lobe switching on depositional architecture.e. demonstrated how 3-D seismic data can be employed to understand the spatial and temporal development of a growth fault arrays. and some other settings. Ž1998.2. Brown. New processing flows.. are helping in some of these areas. These. pre-stack depth migration. As such. These limitations can influence how a survey is collected. it may be desirable or even necessary to revise some of the models to take into account new details that could be provided by 3-D seismic mapping.. there remain areas where seismic acquisition is not Ž?yet. 3-D seismic data have the potential to improve our understanding of some of the 2nd or higher order controls on stratigraphic architecture.g. subsidence and sediment supply. it is generally difficult to obtain good quality seismic data from unconsolidated or poorly consolidated soils that are above the water table.. however. The first order controls on depositional sequence architecture Žsea-level change. are likely to overcome this barrier. the development of seismic stratigraphy Žand the offshoot of sequence stratigraphy. and the economic considerations associated with water availability or contamination are great. until recently. to varying degrees Žtypically. 1996. and Rowan et al. Mansfield Ž1996. as a mature science did much to revolutionize and reinvigorate the field of stratigraphy. velocity-related problems have. Since 2-D seismic based interpretations are used as input into kinematic models. Cost–savings realized by technological improvements Že.. Beginning in the 1970s. 1996. 1996a. Limitations of 3-D seismic technology Experience in the petroleum industry has shown that. limiting their usefulness for regional stratigraphic interpretations. For example.g. For example. it is not possible to obtain useable images of much of the Paleozoic section. are considered to be ‘‘lossy’’ media Ži. unconsolidated Tertiary sediments overlie and bury a dissolution surface developed on a Permian aged salt zone. are also currently an impediment.. 1998. In some cases. The integration of 3-D seismic data into sequence stratigraphic studies will help to reduce these potential errors. Portions of North America’s Permian Basin region fall into this category.. In some areas of this basin. more cost-efficient acquisition layouts. Although 3-D seismic data are often collected over smaller areas than 2-D seismic surveys. structural geology could benefit by more widespread application of 3-D seismic data. The thickness of the Tertiary fill changes abruptly and there is a strong velocity contrast between the fill and the underlying Paleozoic rocks.S. processed and interpreted. prevented geophysicists from obtaining clear subsurface images below salt bodies in the Gulf of Mexico or beneath thrust sheets. Mansfield. either in section or plan. are impossible or very difficult to obtain.. feasible. has its limitations. although the relative importance of each and the nomenclature used to describe successions of sedimentary rocks remain topics of considerable debate. are fairly well established.

. or ‘‘cultural’’ features Že. image is difficult to interpret above 600 ms ŽTWT. . In other areas.B. Both data versions began with the same field data input. 17.S. the reprocessed volume Žlower. has some of the higher frequencies removed. Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218 213 propagates. but different processing flows were applied Ždiscussion and analysis of the processing differences is beyond the scope of this paper. but after reprocessing Žlower image. Conversely. working pumpjacks. The upper Žoriginal. Example showing the effects of seismic processing on data interpretability. wind. making stratigraphic details somewhat harder to interpret in the lower part of the section. road Fig.g. The images show a common vertical transect through two different versions of a 3-D seismic volume.. where it may be difficult or impossible to obtain interpretable seismic images. noise generated by waves.. the stratigraphy and structure in that part of the section become clearer.

Velocity related problems Že. in addition to the artifacts and pitfalls just described. electromagnetic emissions from power cables. The geology of an area and the project economics need to be characterized up front. and the choice of processing algorithms Žoften the better algorithms take more computer time and are therefore more costly.. and these limitations need to be remembered if. Depth migration converts the z axis of the seismic volume from time to depth Žeither pre. there might be velocity problems or multiples that a processor with experience from that area might know how to handle.. Finally. Older seismic data sets Žboth 2-D and 3-D. and disrupt seismic attribute studies Že..g...214 B. are sometimes reprocessed using different parameters to enhance interpretability Že. Overcoming these obstacles will continue to be a topic of considerable interest. in order to properly design a 3-D survey or.. 6. to decide whether a 3-D seismic survey is worth acquiring. are a common type of pitfall. 1998... core. wherein different types of source are tested to determine which provides the best combination of frequency and energy characteristics for a particular application. borehole logs. non-uniqueness of the seismic response and. multiples. low fold areas. choices made during the processing phase can significantly impact seismic data interpretability. 17. indeed. Experience.. 1997a. Two of the more important aspects include the experience of the processors in working with data from a particular area Že. and can be most problematic when available velocity control is limited and lateral lithologic changes and depths are great. but the quality of the result depends on the accuracy of the velocity model used during the migration. the subsurface geology. Hesthammer and Fossen. diffractions.g. and noise related to other sources Že. For example. Various types of pitfalls can confront even an experienced interpreter.. Other concerns are related to acquisition parameters Žsuch as survey design.. Processing can affect the quality of the final data volume for a number of reasons. Conclusions This summary has endeavoured to illustrate how 3-D seismic technology is applied in the petroleum industry and to suggest that similar approaches might be undertaken in other branches of the earth sciences. technical or other obstacles can cause 3-D seismic to be an impractical tool for studying the subsurface. and an understanding of the principles of geology and geophysics can help the interpreter to watch out for these and other types of interpretation problems. Source testing. a horizontal layer might appear to be ‘‘pulled up’’ on a seismic transect beneath a region that has fast velocities.. No matter how widespread the technology has become in the petroleum industry.g. the acquisition footprint is an artifact characterized by patterns of noise in 3-D data that are related to the geometric distribution of sources and receivers on the earths surface ŽMarfurt et al. and noise testing. there are still aspects of the interpretation phase that can affect the validity of the results.. the way that these elements interact.g. within the petroleum industry there is general recognition of the limitations of 3-D seismic technology. Likewise. geochemical analyses.g. looking at ambient and system noise levels. the technology is applied in other fields. can be used to help design survey acquisition parameters or even determine whether it is possible to collect usable seismic data.S.g. or when. As illustrated in Fig. 1997b. The most obvious of these are the interpreters capabilities and experience working with 3-D seismic data and the software used in the interpretation. processing parameters. pressures.. Marfurt et al. For example. Assuming that the data set has been satisfactorily acquired and processed. perhaps. 1998. economic.or post-stack. practical limits on vertical and lateral resolution can make targets impossible to identify in seismic data. although 3-D seismic data can provide some valuable insights compared to 2-D seismic or well data. Although a 3-D seismic data volume provides a tremendous amount of information about the sub- .. can obscure stratigraphic and structural features Že. Hesthammer and Fossen. can cause low signal-to-noise ratios that make data difficult to interpret.g. it is only through the integration of multidisciplinary data sets and concepts Že... that the full benefits of 3-D seismic technology are realized. Improper survey design and excessive cost cutting during acquisition and processing have been known to lead to poor data quality and failure in the petroleum industry. This. Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218 traffic.

Bin — A rectangular area in the x.. Fold (multiplicity) — The number of field traces sharing a common midpoint that are stacked together during data processing to produce a single trace in the final data volume. Complex trace attribute — A seismic attribute Že. The fold may not be constant throughout the entire area of a 3-D survey. Arbitrary line r transect — A vertical seismic transect through a 3-D seismic volume. The quality and continuity of the subsurface image obtained with a properly acquired 3-D survey.g. Cross Timbers Oil. the better the data quality. Fault slice — Amplitudes extracted along the plane of a fault.. Support for the author’s current research comes from the AdÕanced ReserÕoir Management Project of Los Alamos National Laboratory. Geographic coordinates for some of the illustrations have been deliberately disguised or omitted to conserve the confidentiality of the data. Glossary of some commonly used terms in 3-D seismic interpretation This Appendix provides definitions for some terms in 3-D seismic technology based on common usage by interpreters. results of autotracking applications need to be quality checked by interpreters. Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218 215 surface structure. and viewed projected onto a vertical plane. All else being equal.. The term Coherency Cubee refers to a technology that has been patented by Amoco. Crossline (trace) — One of the two sequentially numbered orthogonal reference coordinates for 3-D seismic surveys Žthe other being the linerinline.. Appendix A.g.g. the Southwest Section of the Petroleum Technology Transfer Council. the higher the fold. Data sets and technical guidance have been provided by Amoco. orientation and length of which is defined freely by the interpreter. combined with the flexible data visualization and interpretation capabilities of interpretation software and data integration. and Smacko Operating. instantaneous frequency. Picking parameters are set by the interpreter. but other companies have developed similar attributes Žmost of which are proprietary. and from examples and concepts presented in the literature. Autotracking — Automated picking of a seismic horizon throughout a 3-D seismic volume based on seed points provided by the interpreter... Harvey E. that is derived from the Hilbert transform. instantaneous phase. y plane Žhorizontal. Some of these terms have other meanings in the field of reflection seismology. and each bin can be identified by a specific combination of line and trace numbers.S. or similar benefits may be realizable in other applied and fundamental branches of the geosciences. . Bin dimensions are determined by acquisition parameters. For land surveys. channel or reef margins. especially in areas of complex geology or poor data quality. This attribute is commonly used to define discontinuities that can be due to faulting or stratigraphic features Že. the crossline orientation is typically the direction in which source lines were laid out.B.. Horizon — A seismic pick that typically corresponds to a particular stratigraphic level Že. it is only through integration of these geophysical data with other geologic and engineering data and concepts that the true potential of the technology is unlocked. These. Coherency attribute — An attribute defined by comparing a seismic trace with its neighbours over a sliding time window in order to numerically define the lateral trace continuity at that location. Despite the time efficiency. stratigraphy and rock properties. and the New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources. Interpretation software has been provided to the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology by Landmark Graphics Corporation. Ardent Resources. help petroleum geoscientists to produce the world’s hydrocarbon resources more economically and efficiently. Yates. the location. Marathon. that is represented by a single seismic trace in a 3-D volume. This process is used to provide a continuous horizon pick more rapidly than could be achieved through manual picking. the top of a formation. Acknowledgements The material presented in this paper is derived from the author’s own published and unpublished research.

He. the inline orientation is typically the direction in which receiver cables were laid out. Applications of 3-D Seismic Data to Exploration and Production.. Multipanel display — A display that consists of two or more contiguous vertical transects Žtypically arbitrary lines. Oil Gas J.. and Žc. Hart r Earth-Science ReÕiews 47 (1999) 189–218 Horizon attributes — Attributes that are derived from and define geometric properties of a picked.P. that is derived for an interval that is defined either by two horizons or a user selected time window defined with respect to one horizon. Vol. A common example is the use of changes in seismic amplitudes through time to monitor changes in the location of an oilrwater contact that are due to production. Alberta. T. can be displayed in either time or depth.F. through a 3-D seismic volume. Utilizing 3-D. typically interpreted horizons and faults. but with more recording depths..S. T. edge detection. Hill. The Leading Edge 14. Synthetic seismogram — Seismic traces generated by mathematically convolving a seismic wavelet with a time series of reflection coefficients that has been derived from well log data Žvelocity and density logs.. S. 4-D seismic monitoring of drainage in the Eugene Island 330 Field in the Offshore Gulf of Mexico.. S. in pseudo 3-D form. 9–19. 3-C seismology for reservoir property characterization at Joffre Field.F. etc. In: Weimer.. 1996... Velocity surÕey — Determination of the subsurface velocity field. Arestad.. Inline (line) — One of the two sequentially numbered orthogonal reference coordinates for 3-D seismic surveys Žthe other being the tracercrossline. average amplitude. 44–49. Sun. eliminating sideswipe.L. each voxel stores a numerical amplitude value. 1995. In: Weimer. generating an acoustic pulse at the surface. P.L.. Wilkins. Time lapse (4-D) seismic — The use of different vintages of 3-D seismic data covering a constant area to monitor changes in subsurface conditions. pp. ŽEds.. These ‘‘synthetics’’ are used to predict the seismic response at a borehole location and thus tie log-derived geologic information to the seismic data. W. usually by lowering a receiver down a borehole to different depths. collapse diffractions and shrink the Fresnel zone..L. 3-D migration produces a seismic image that is more accurate than an equivalent 2-D image. Mills. PerspectiÕe display — A display that shows objects from a seismic survey. Team combines technologies to target horizontal wells in Gulf of Mexico Oil Field. 1994.. then measuring the vertical traveltime to the receiver.. InterÕal attribute — A seismic attribute Že.e. Processing transforms the raw data into seismic traces that: Ža. M. Hart. and not just first arrivals. K. Sideswipe — Reflected energy that comes from objects to the side of the vertical plane that is intended to be imaged in a 2-D seismic transect. continuous horizon. 42.S. For land surveys.S.. Davis.N. Sideswipe is eliminated during 3-D migration. Longer recording times are analyzed in order to detect reflected energy from subsurface interfaces. Mitchell. T. G. 14. J. 1053–1058. Žb.g. a rectangular series of geophones that record reflections from a shotpoint that is typically located near the center of the patch. AAPG Studies in Geology Series. such as dip. and the sampling interval Žin the z direction.g. For conventional 3-D seismic volumes. ŽEds. P. Voxel — A ‘‘ volume element’’ defined by the bin size Žin the x... 42.. A. 171–178.. show the seismic response in the vicinity of the borehole. III. P. R. Farmer.. a constant TWT does not necessarily represent a constant subsurface depth.H. y plane. These displays can be rotated Ži.. Applications of 3-D Seismic Data to Exploration and Production.. Davis. R. Since subsurface velocities may vary laterally. Horizon slice — Instantaneous amplitudes extracted along a horizon and displayed in a map view. Vol. Xu. Timeslice — A slice through a 3-D seismic volume at a constant TWT. Canada. azimuth. AAPG Studies in Geology Series.216 B.. and are useful visualization tools for quality checking interpretations or presenting results. Davis. Boulanger. 1996. . K. Badgett. Benson. Patch — In land 3-D seismic acquisition. can be directly tied to other borehole information Že. Migration — A seismic processing step which is used to reposition reflected energy to its true subsurface location Žthus.L.... Vinson. L. Bahorich. average frequency.. Vertical seismic profile (VSP) — A seismic profile that is collected in a manner somewhat analogous to a velocity survey. W.. wireline logs. viewed from any angle. Y. pp. B. References Anderson..D.. 3-D seismic discontinuity for faults and stratigraphic features: the coherence cube.

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