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This book is related to surface petroleum seismology, meaning those
acquisition techniques involving sources and receivers at the earth surface. This
represents the vast majority of seismic effort worldwide and includes data gathered
by receivers on the seafloor. Downhole methods such as vertical seismic profiling
and crosswell seismic are only discussed as they relate to surface seismic data.

A brief history of seismology

Earthquakes have affected human societies from the earliest times. The
occurrence of earthquakes were recorded by civilizations around the world,
including China, Egypt, Babylonia and other societies of the ancient near east,
and Greece. The first attempts at explaining the causes of earthquakes are found
in the fragmentary literature of the Greek pre-Socratic philosophers [114] from
580 BCE onward.

Little of value on this subject was added after the third century BCE.
Earthquake theories of the ancient world are diverse but nowhere show an
appreciation of faulting and wave motion as the cause of earthquakes. Perhaps
the closest is Metrodorus of Chios (fourth century): When someone sings into a
large jar, his voice vibrates and runs through the whole jar But only by abuse
of a modern vantage point does an elastic wave theory of earthquakes emerge out
of this passage or any of the ancient works.

The great earthquake of Lisbon in 1755 began a modern march toward

seismic understanding that continues today. A major cultural center of Europe
was destroyed, and many thousands were killed from the earthquake, tsunami,

Elements of 3D Seismology

and aftershocks. Include the death toll from fire and disease, and perhaps half of
the population was lost within a month. This event has been said to be the slap
that started the infant science of seismology breathing.

The equations of motion for an elastic medium were published by Navier in

1821. Poisson showed in 1828 that the equations of motion implied two kinds of
elastic waves now called P- and S-waves. Between 1830 and 1860, many of the
worlds top physicists developed elastic wave theory as a possible mathematical
foundation of light. Maxwells equations ended this quest in 1861, but the
theoretical results were of direct use later in seismology.

Notable in this period is a brilliant 1849 memoir by Stokes, Dynamical

Theory of Diffraction. The foundations of elastic wave theory were completed by
Rayleigh (1885) describing the surface wave that bears his name, Knott (1899),
and Zoeppritz (1919) on elastic reflection coefficients. Finally, Lamb (1904)
solved the general problem of elastic waves emitted by a point source on the
surface of an elastic self-gravitating sphere.

Modern observational seismology began with the Milne seismograph built

in 1880. Instrumentation improved parallel to industrial and electronic progress
until portable seismographs were possible.

The first modern reflection seismic experiments were conducted in the

United States by Fessenden in 1913, and he received a patent for Method and
Apparatus for Locating Ore Bodies in 1917. However, the first known reference
to a reflection seismic experiment is described by the Greek historian Herodotus
writing in about 445430 BCE. Recounting an event of 580 BCE, he writes:

Then the Persians besieged Barce for nine months, digging mines leading to the
walls, and making violent assaults. As for the mines, a smith discovered them by the
means of a brazen shield, and this is how he found them: Carrying the shield round
the inner side of the walls he smote it against the ground of the city; all other places
where he smote it returned but a dull sound, but where the mines were the bronze of
the shield rang clear. Here the Barcaeans made a counter-mine and slew those
Persians who were digging the earth. Thus the mines were discovered and the assaults
were beaten off by the townsmen.

In modern terms, we would say the smith used his shield to perform a
seismic tunnel detection experiment. While this application of reflection
seismology had no influence on later developments in the science, it does predate
Fessenden by about 2500 years.

The progress of reflection seismology from Fessendens time to the advent of

CDP shooting in 1956 can be found elsewhere [101], and highlights of progress
in the period 19562003 are given in Table I1. Like any such list, this one is
subjective, but it does capture the sense of progress over the last 40 years.


Table I1 Selected advances in petroleum seismology 19562003

1956 Common midpoint shooting Acquisition
1958 Synthetic seismogram Interpretation
1960 Vibroseis Acquisition
1962 Marine air gun Acquisition
1967 Digital seismic processing Processing
1968 Digital migration Processing
1971 Seismic stratigraphy Interpretation
1972 3D shooting Acquisition
1974 Vertical seismic profile Acquisition
1978 2D Poststack depth migration Processing
1979 Residual statics Processing
1979 Complex trace attributes; Impedance aversion Interpretation
1980 2D prestack depth migration Processing
1980 Bright spot analysis; Workstations Interpretation
1981 3D migration velocity analysis; Slant stack Processing
1984 DMO, 2D refl tomograpy, optimization Processing
1985 3D Poststack Depth Migration Processing
1985 Amplitude Variation with Offset AVO Interpretation
1986 3D reflection tomography, Processing
FX deconvolution
1986 Ocean bottom cable; Crosswell Acquisition
1989 4D seismic Acquisition
1989 3D prestack depth migration; Processing
Neural networks
1989 Dip and azimuth attributes Interpretation
1990 Subsalt imaging Interpretation
1991 Vertical cable Acquisition
1991 Turning wave migration; Wavelet transforms Processing
1992 Seismic sequence stratigraphy Interpretation
1994 Routine anisotropic processing Processing
1994 4D flow parameters seismic parameters Interpretation
1995 Coherence; Fluid substitution; Interpretation
Wavelet transforms
1996 Impedance optimization; Interpretation
Attribute classification
1997 Spectral decomposition Interpretation
1998 Seismic monitoring of hydraulic fracturing Acquisition
1999 Least squares migration Processing
2000 Overpressure from attributes Interpretation
2001 Reservoir prediction with Interpretation
multiattribute transforms
2003 Generalized Hilbert transform; Spice Interpretation

Elements of 3D Seismology

Why 3D?
This is a book on 3D seismic with detours to 2D when this is adequate to
convey a concept or technique. Seismic prospecting was almost exclusively 2D
until the mid-1980s. In the 1970s when computing became common, 3D
acquisition, processing, and interpretation advanced dramatically. Current
worldwide seismic effort is dominated by 3D, and its dominance is growing.

What is the attraction of 3D? Since 3D seismic is now the default mode, it
needs no special justification. But it is worth making a short list of benefits to
remind us how 3D came to be the preferred technique.

A 3D seismic survey has many advantages over a 2D line or a dense grid of 2D

lines. A 2D grid is considered dense if the line spacing is less than about 400 m.

The advantages of 3D include

1. true versus apparent structural dip

2. more and better stratigraphic information from time and horizon slices
3. optimum mapping of faults in map view
4. optimum lateral resolution
5. much better reduction of drilling risk

From a physics point of view, 3D is what we should have been doing all

Getting started
Here are a few recurring ideas and concepts related to 3D seismology.

Onion. You can think of the knowledge required for working with 3D
seismic as being built up of layers like an onion. At the core are 1D seismic ideas
like wavelet, convolution, phase, and reflection coefficient. The next layer is 2D
seismic where new concepts include offset and angular reflection. Next is 3D
where we find azimuth, bins, the data volume, and ways to slice it. The outside
layer is time-lapse 3D where new ideas include repeatability and seismic response
to pore fluid changes.

Quality. The main job for seismic interpretation is to map structure,

stratigraphy, and reservoir properties. In that order, each task requires increasing
data quality. Quality is a nebulous thing determined at acquisition time by correct
survey design and execution. Processing generally has less impact on quality but
is still very important.


Stack. Prestack data is acquired in shot records, sorted into common-

midpoint gathers, normal moveout corrected, and summed over offsets (stacked)
to form the poststack interpretation volume.

Volume. On a regular cubic grid, 3D seismic data is a volume of data values.

The size of this grid is (nt,nx,ny) which can be millions or billions of individual

Information. Seismic data consists of (1) traveltime, (2) amplitude, and (3)
waveform information. Structure mapping involves only (1), stratigraphic
information involves (1)(3), and reservoir property prediction is based
primarily on (2)(3).

Echo. Seismic is an echolocation technique similar to sonar, radar, and

medical ultrasound. A wave is emitted on the surface of a medium, it bounces
around in the material, and part of it is reflected back to the surface. From the
returned signal, we attempt to determine internal features of the medium.

Edges. If you go to an outcrop and look at the geology, you see rock units
sandstone, shale, and limestone. If you look at seismic data, you are seeing the
edges of rock units. Seismic is, in effect, an edge detection technique that
responds to acoustic impedance changes. Acoustic impedance is density
multiplied by seismic P-wave velocity.

Layers. A key part of the interpretation process for 3D seismic data is event
tracking. You can picture this by thinking of the 3D seismic data volume as a cube
of vanilla ice cream with chocolate streaks. Tracking means we follow a streak into
the cube to find its 3D shape. This is time structure mapping. We also keep track
of how dark the chocolate is as we follow it. This is horizon amplitude mapping.

Computer. Available computer power is such that seismic imaging of a large

3D data set involves many approximations and shortcuts, and still can take
several months.

Risk. In the search for petroleum, seismic imaging reduces risk of drilling dry
holes and marginal wells and under or over estimating reserves. But no one finds
oil with seismic data. It is found by drilling. Medical imaging is a suitable analogy
to seismic imaging. Both are noninvasive, nondestructive, and reduce risk.
Surgery repairs the problem, but in this day and age, who would undergo surgery
without some kind of medical imaging first?