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Department of Petroleum Technology and Applied Geophysics

NTNU Trondheim

Egil Tjland 2011

Seismic interpretation Principles (Part 4)

Seismic polarity standards:

We have now seen that seismic data is the convolution of a seismic pulse (wavelet) with a
reflection series. As we saw in the last section it may be hard to determine the exact top
of a geologic layer due to the problem of interferences of the various pulses. The Society
of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) has suggested the following rules for the two main
types of pulses used in seismic data, minimum phase (Figure 1a) and zero phase (Figure
1b). Note that we should interpret the onset of a trough for a normal polarity minimum
phase signal and the peak for a normal polarity zero phase wavelet. RC+ means an
increase in acoustic impedance like what we get at the seafloor reflector. Normally
seismic data are zero phased, because it is normally easier to interpret peaks and troughs
rather than at onsets of troughs and peaks. The zero offset wavelet is symmetric. Note
however, that the zero phase wavelet is mathematically derived, and has some data before
the reflector occurs (non causal wavelet). It is very important to note that the SEG
standard is a suggested polarity standard, and not one that is always followed. One should
therefore always check the processing report, or get the polarity information other places
before starting interpretation.

Figure 1. SEG convention for polarity standards.

Velocity effects

When interpreting seismic data it is important to realize that we normally display the
vertical axis as two way traveltime (TWT). Since lithologies in general have different
seismic velocities this display may distort the actual depth image. Some special effects
can be noted where we have strong velocity contrasts, like salt domes (figure 2) and gas
chimneys (figure 3). Since the velocity in salt is normally very high (more than 4000
m/s), the seismic waves will travel faster in the salt than in the surroundings, displaying
reflectors beneath the salt pulled up compared to the surroundings. This velocity pull
up effect is an important way to find evidence for material with high velocities in the
seismic. The opposite effect happens where we have low velocity in a layer compared to
the surroundings. This may happen for gas filled reservoirs, mud diapers or overpressured
zones. Figure 3 shows the effect of having a low velocity gas cloud above the main
reservoir. All reflectors beneath the gas cloud are bent downwards causing a velocity
push down on the seismic.

Figure 2. Time section (left) and depth section (right) of a salt body encapsulated in
shales. Note that the base of the salt is pulled up on the time section compared to the
depth section.
Figure 3. Velocity push down caused by gas chimney above the Valhall oil field in the
North Sea. The white ellipse shows the part of the seismic affected by the gas chimney.
The vertical scale is depth.

Direct Hydrocarbon Indicators

To discover hydrocarbons from seismic normally a structure is mapped, and a volume is

calculated after depth conversion. A well is the ultimate test to see if the interpretation
was right. To make a decision for drilling a prospect one would have to put risk factors
for each of the uncertain parameters in the prospect evaluation. Under favorable
conditions one can find direct evidence (or circumstantial evidence) for hydrocarbons.
These are called DHI (Direct Hydrocarbon Indicators).

The DHIs can be listed as follows:

Flat spots
Bright spots
Dim spots
AVO anomalies

Flat spots

When a horizontal reflector crosses dipping stratigraphy we may have an instance of a

horizontal fluid contact making an acoustic impedance contrast with the surrounding
geology (see figure 4). A flat spot is normally associated with a gas/water or a gas/oil
interface. An oil/water contact will normally not show up on seismic data because the
acoustic impedance for an oil filled reservoir and a water filled reservoir is normally not
much different. The situation is very different for a gas filled reservoir. The velocity and
density for a gas filled reservoir are normally much lower that for an oil or a water filled
reservoir. Note that the flat spot may not be perfectly flat (see figure 5). A dipping flat
spot can be caused either from a dipping fluid contact or it may come from velocity
variations above the reservoir (for seismic time data). A curved flat spot may be caused
by a velocity push down cause by e.g. gas in the reservoir (figure 5). Note that a flat
event can also be interpreted as a multiple, a volcanic sill or as a diagenetic effect.

Figure 4. Two flat spots in a reservoir in Indonesia (Courtesy Premier Oil)

Figure 5: Flat spot with a curved shape (Nile Delta) probably caused by a low velocity
material (possibly gas) above the flatspot. Courtesy Alistair Brown.
Bright Spot

The contrast in acoustic impedance between the cap rock and a gas filled reservoir may
change laterally from e.g. a shale overlaying a water bearing sandstone (small contrast) to
a shale overlaying a gas bearing sandstone (large contrast). Amplitudes caused by abrupt
lateral changes of acoustic impedance contrasts are called Bright Spots (see figure 6).
Normally Bright Spots are gas indicators. It is worth noting that just a small saturation of
gas (5-10%) in a reservoir rock may change the seismic velocity dramatically, so that a
Bright Spot may occur. Note also Bright spots in Figure 4 and 5.

Figure 6. Bright spot shown on seismic line. Note that the amplitudes are much stronger
in the middle of the section than elsewhere. Courtesy Christian Muller, University of
Kiel, 2001

Dim Spots

When the contrast between the cap rock and the hydrocarbon saturated reservoir rock is
lowered compared to the surrounding water wet reservoir conditions we get a lower
amplitude over the reservoir. This situation is called a Dim Spot (see Figure 7). A typical
situation is a shale above a carbonate rock (e.g. a reef) where the contrast in acoustic
impedance is high when the limestone is water wet, but low when the limestone is
Hydrocarbon saturated (e.g. gas). The reflector will be seen as much weaker in amplitude
above the reservoir.
AVO anomalies

When amplitudes vary as a function of offset (or angle) the particular way the amplitude
changes take place may be an indication of hydrocarbons. Normally we expect the
amplitudes to increase with offset (or angle) for the interfaces between the cap rock and
the gas (or oil) filled reservoir. The same will occur for the gas/oil, gas/water or oil/water
contact (but then with the opposite polarity to the cap rock/gas interface. AVO is
performed on prestack data, however it may be possible to do a partial stack (near-stack,
mid-stack and far-stack) to increase the Signal to Noise (S/N) ratio and at the same time
preserve the amplitude characteristics for the various offsets (or angles).

Figure 7. Vertical slices (top) and timeslices (bottom) for near-angle cube (lef) and far-
angle cube (right). The near-angle cubes show a low amplitude event (dim spot) in the
structure, while the far-angle cubes show a bright amplitude event at the same level
(bright spot). Since we here see an example of low amplitudes on the near-angle data and
high amplitudes on the far-angle data we see an example of an AVO-anomaly. Courtesy
TotalElfFina (data from Nigeria).