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Many of today’s exploration targets cannot be seen with conventional seismicimaging methods. Operators now are getting a clearer picture—even of the most complex features—using prestack depth imaging. The more accurate results reduce exploration risk and help delineate reserves.
Uwe Albertin Jerry Kapoor Richard Randall Mart Smith Houston, Texas, USA Gillian Brown Chris Souﬂeris Phil Whitﬁeld Gatwick, England Fiona Dewey Wintershall Noordzee BV The Hague, The Netherlands Jim Farnsworth BP Houston, Texas Gary Grubitz BHP Billiton Houston, Texas Mark Kemme Clyde Petroleum Exploratie BV The Hague, The Netherlands
For help in preparation of this article, thanks to Ian Anstey, Robert Bloor, George Jamieson, Patrick Ng and Erick Zubay, Houston, Texas, USA; and Mark Egan, Gatwick, England. 1. Fold is the number of source-receiver pairs whose signals constitute a trace.
Throughout the last century, interpreters accepted seismic images processed and displayed in the time domain. In many of today’s active exploration areas, especially where structures are complex and seismic velocities vary abruptly because of faulting or salt intrusion, time-domain processing can give misleading results; only depth imaging can deﬁne the true position and correct geometry of subsurface features. In some cases, the difference between depth and time images can make or break a prospect: structures gain or lose closure, targets move by hundreds of feet or meters, and reserves can be added or lost. The difference can be an expensive dry hole instead of a discovery. This article explains how depth imaging has emerged as the technique of choice for processing seismic data to image complex subsurface features. Case studies show how oil and gas companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico, North Sea and onshore US are improving their drilling success rates with depth imaging. Events in Seismic History Over the course of the 20th Century, notable milestones marked advances in seismic prospecting methods. Although many new technologies have taken about 10 years to mature from ﬁrst introduction to accepted practice, each one has ultimately created new exploration opportunities. Starting in the 1920s, single-fold analog traces were introduced to detect dipping subsurface layers (next page).1 In the 1930s, this innovative technique was the key to discoveries around salt domes, and became standard practice. The 1950s saw the arrival of multiple-fold seismic data achieved by common depth-point (CDP)
stacking, which markedly improved signal-tonoise ratio. In the 1960s, digital data acquisition and processing were introduced, replacing earlier analog and optical methods. This created major improvements in the quality of seismic data and led to many new discoveries worldwide. Throughout the 1970s, digital data and twodimensional (2D) surveys became common. Together, these technologies opened up the North Sea and other challenging areas. Timebased processing was standard, but 2D poststack depth migration was introduced and tested. The first small three-dimensional (3D) surveys were acquired over developed ﬁelds to improve reservoir delineation. In the 1980s, 3D surveys gained wide acceptance in the industry and transformed the exploration business. Trace attributes and bright spots were used as seismic indicators of hydrocarbons. By the 1990s, seismic contractors routinely acquired 3D exploration data over vast portions of the world’s continental shelves. Three-dimensional poststack time migration evolved to become standard practice, reducing ﬁnding costs to their current levels; and 3D prestack depth migration was introduced for particular cases. Today, many operators won’t drill without 3D data over their prospects, and in the areas of highest risk, won’t drill without prestack depth imaging. Currently, depth imaging is creating exploration opportunities in regions that were considered too risky just a few years ago. This technique is helping explorationists generate new subsalt prospects in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico and discover new reserves in the North Sea that were unimaginable using conventional time-processed data.
Spring 2002 3 .1920 Single-fold analog shooting 1930 1940 Multiple-fold common depth-point stacking Discoveries around salt domes 1950 Common depth point (CDP) Offset 2 3 1 4 Hyperbolic curve + Stacking velocity Digital data acquisition and processing 1960 Two-way time 2D surveys 1970 3D surveys 1980 Subsalt prestack depth migration 1990 Multiclient 3D prestack depth imaging 2000 > Chronology of selected advances in seismic methods.
3 Each type of migration has advantages and drawbacks. Creation of the velocity model still remains a time-consuming process and depends on the local geology. or well-deﬁned fault blocks exist.2 Migration is accomplished by various solutions to the wave equation that describe the propagation of elastic waves through rock. top right). Traces from several source-receiver pairs. For poststack migration to be successful. In the past. centered on the reﬂection point but separated by different distances. Gathered traces are displayed in coordinates of time versus offset (center). Any other conditions call for prestack migration. Depth migration is chosen when steeply dipping faults. to create a single trace with higher signal-to-noise ratio than that of any of the original traces. or zero-offset. the main constraints on prestack migration were the computing power needed and the time and skill required to construct the velocity model within a reasonable turnaround time. Migration algorithms often take the name of their inventor. Certain imaging problems can be solved with time migration. The arrivals are shifted into alignment using a stacking velocity. because stacking reduces by an order of magnitude the number of traces that must be processed. such as ﬁnite-difference. These suppositions are valid only when variations in lithology and ﬂuid content over the span of the gathered traces can be ignored and when the structure is simple. In time migration. The second ingredient in imaging—migration—uses a velocity model to redistribute reﬂected seismic energy from its assumed position at the midpoint to its true position (next page. and horizontal variations are gradual. time migration is often applicable. the velocity model. prestack migration can handle the most complex structures and velocity ﬁelds. Migration can be performed in two domains—time or depth—and either before or after stacking. and stacked (right). One of the several classes of migration may be chosen depending on the complexities of the target and overburden structures. Migration applied after stacking—poststack—is much faster than migration before stacking. are gathered together (below). 4 Oilﬁeld Review . Before the gather can be stacked. and is used in most parts of the world. Performed before stacking. but the most complex problems need depth migration. the traces must be shifted to align arrivals. Depth migration needs an accurate velocity model in depth and is a more labor-intensive operation. or offsets. or the type of mathematical solution. top left). the velocity model may have strong contrasts horizontally or vertically. also called the velocity ﬁeld. The simplest case to illustrate is a ﬂat layer of uniform velocity overlying the reﬂector. In depth migration. The variation in arrival time with offset is called moveout. in which the shape of reﬂection arrivals from a ﬂat reﬂector deﬁnes a hyperbola. velocitymodel building for depth migration proceeds on a Offset 4 Offset 3 Offset 2 Offset 1 Zero offset 1 Offset 2 3 Offset 4 Hyperbolic curve With stacking velocity 1 2 3 4 Two-way time + + + = Common depth point (CDP) Corrected CDP gather Stacked CDP > Stacking traces from a common depth-point (CDP) gather. Advances in computing technology have eased these constraints. The result of stacking is a single trace—the enhanced version of a signal that would have been recorded for a normalincidence. Traces from several source-receiver pairs at different offsets from the common depth point are collected to form a CDP gather (left). may vary smoothly (next page. In areas where the geology is layered. The velocity model has two-way traveltime as its vertical axis. Since these constraints are valid in most sedimentary basins. It consists of two main elements—stacking and migration. Seismic velocity increases with traveltime. The offset-versus-time parameter that describes the shifts deﬁnes the stacking velocity of that layer. Simple structures and smoothly varying velocities can be imaged with simple migration routines that may fail to work on complex structures with rapidly varying velocities. the assumptions made in stacking must be well-founded: the amplitude of the stacked trace must represent that of the normal-incidence trace and reflected arrivals must be approximately hyperbolic. folds or intrusions juxtapose layers with vastly different elastic properties. such as Kirchhoff.Introduction to Imaging Imaging is the process that brings seismic reﬂections into focus at their proper positions. Stacking increases signal-to-noise ratio by summing records obtained from several seismic shots reﬂecting at the same point. or offset-versus-time relationship. or summed. The shape of the arrival times plotted against offset deﬁnes a hyperbola. shot at the midpoint of the source-receiver pairs.
Donihoo K. no. Stacking and borehole velocities can show representative velocity trends. 502. Whitmore D. 1334. 496. The high contrast in seismic velocity between the salt at 14. the velocity model may have smooth variations. Poststack models are on the left and prestack models are on the right. In 3D cases. but only with depth. with their knowledge of processing.200 ft/sec [about 4500 m/s] and sediments. 12 (December 2001): 1328. Gray S. Albertin U. no. the velocity analyst defines blocks or other volumes bounded by faults or intrusions. Operating company interpreters often have better knowledge and expectations of the subsurface. Hodgkiss G. In more complex cases. In areas where geology is more continuous. 543. salt bodies are inserted after their positions are determined using several iterations of depth migration. and are critical in terms of hydrocarbon migration and trapping. which should be taken into account in the model. incorporate these interpretations to help create the model for depth migration. Martin G and Shope D: “Is Depth Imaging a Commodity? The Impact of New Imaging Technologies and Web-Based Collaboration. Kapoor J.Migrated trace Source Midpoint trace Receiver Simple velocities + simple structure = poststack time migration MIG Original data Salt Increasing velocity Simple velocities + complex structure = prestack time migration Complex velocities + simple structure = poststack depth migration Complex velocities + complex structure = prestack depth migration > Migration of reﬂected seismic energy. 510. 500. Poststack migration works with models of low structural complexity. 5 (May 2001): 498. An initial model is constructed from the most suitable data available. 506. which typically represent velocities in the vertical direction. migration repositions the data trace from its recorded position at the source-receiver midpoint to its true position (MIG) using a velocity model.” The Leading Edge 20. 3. When the structure is not too complex. and only monotonically—always increasing with depth. More discussion on depth migration in anisotropic velocity ﬁelds appears later in this article. Sengupta M and Moldoveanu N: “Improvements in 3-D AVO Analysis and Structural Imaging of Dipping Salt-Flank Events Using AmplitudePreserving Prestack Depth Migration. and can help interpret layer boundaries and salt features for the velocity model. time-interpreted horizons and velocities from borehole data. Ratcliff D and Whitcombe D: “Structural Imaging: Toward a Sharper Subsurface View. Nichols D. Spring 2002 5 . such as those with lateral variation or decreases of velocity with depth. depth. time and depth migration: Farmer P. These differences must be accounted for by introducing anisotropy into the velocity model. Service company staff. and depth-based models are on the bottom. Ghose S. Depth migration is required for more complex velocity models. Salt massifs can appear to be rooted to a deeper salt layer or completely detached and ﬂoating. causes problems for time-migration approaches. 490. 504. never decreasing.” The Leading Edge 20. and stacking velocities.” Oilﬁeld Review 5. For this simpliﬁed two-dimensional (2D) example. 488. Collaboration between operator and service company can facilitate successful velocity model building. 494. Prestack migration can handle even the most complex models. Bernitsas N. 2. Kitchenside P and Mao W: “Depth Imaging Examples and Methodology in the Gulf of Mexico. layer-by-layer basis. Salt geometries can vary enormously. For more on prestack. which represent horizontal velocities. 492. then updated through several iterations of prestack depth migration for each layer. Chang W.500 to 15. Dai N. such as stacking velocities. 508. a continuous sediment-velocity model is defined using either tomography or local velocity updating. such as in the Gulf of Mexico.” The Leading Edge 20. Huang S. Depth Imaging in the Gulf of Mexico The Gulf of Mexico has been the most publicized proving-ground for prestack depth-migration techniques. prestack and poststack. Pieprzak A. the entire velocity model can be updated and constructed layer by layer rather quickly. signiﬁcant differences may appear between borehole-based velocities. no. often at less than half that value. no. 1332. 512–513. Once the sediment velocity is deﬁned. 5 (May 2001): 486. Woodward M. reﬂections may be redistributed to and from positions outside the plane containing the sources and receivers. > Simple and complex velocity models and structures treated by four migration classes—time. Models appropriate for time-based migration are on the top. then builds the model for each block layer by layer. The initial velocity model can be constructed using all the available information. Kirchhoff migration is based on Kirchhoff’s solution to the wave equation. poststack. 1330. For time migration. 1 (January 1993): 28–41.4 Salt bodies in various stages of intrusion and uplift have created complex structures that both motivate and challenge explorationists. 4. In areas where anisotropy is an important factor. Charles S.
Llano. They attributed this success to prestack depth imaging.Technological advances have brought increases in production ever since hydrocarbons were discovered in the Gulf of Mexico (below). the cost of drilling a well can exceed $50 million. In the Gulf of Mexico. companies continue to explore below salt. BP credits prestack depth-imaging breakthroughs with helping to describe the elements of the Crazy Horse prospect and to position the discovery well. In these areas. allowing contractors to differentiate their results from those of other contractors. 6 Oilﬁeld Review . drilling technologies were key to exploration success. > Data-processing ﬂow for subsalt prestack depth migration. Mad Dog. and prestack depth imaging is one of the technologies that help reduce risk. sediments typically are sand-shale sequences without strong velocity contrasts between layers. Early on. In the late 1980s. deepwater Deepwater. Mad Dog and the rest of the Western Atwater Fold Belt trend that encompasses these discoveries. seismicimaging techniques have helped sustain the discovery rate. Several of the recent large discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico are in deep water—deeper than 5000 ft [1500 m] (bottom left). Several of these have been discovered with the help of prestack depth imaging. The ﬁrst step after general prestack processing is to build the initial velocity model for the layers overlying the salt. Large recent discoveries have estimated reserves in the hundreds of millions of barrels.6 Imaging a seismic volume containing a salt body is different from traditional processing. BHP Billiton has reported 200 to 450 million BOE recoverable reserves at Mad Dog and 400 to 800 million BOE at Atlantis. Many of these steps are based on proprietary processing techniques. The process is a complex interplay of several steps. Production. The Crazy Horse discovery by BP contains estimated reserves of 1 billion barrels of oil equivalent (BOE). Anadarko and Amoco were the ﬁrst to announce a subsalt discovery in the Gulf of Mexico with the Mahogany prospect. prestack depth imaging is the critical technology for reducing risk and appraisal at Atlantis. partners Phillips Petroleum. in which data tapes are sent off for processing and a ﬁnished product is returned to the interpreter for examination. Subsalt imaging requires several iterations of migration and interpretation (below). and continuing through modern seismic methods. The initial velocity model can often be derived from stacking velocities to produce a smooth interval-velocity ﬁeld describing the sediments. Atlantis and others. with many occurring near salt bodies. and many are also looking in deeper water. billion BOE Prestack processing Lake Charles Analyze velocities Houston New Orleans Edit distorted velocities Build depth-and spacevariant gradients 3D poststack migrate on fine grid C A 3D prestack migrate on fine grid Update velocity model 3D prestack migrate on sparse grid or depth window G H A B C D E F G H B D Define salt geometry F E Crazy Horse Mars Crazy Horse North Ursa Atlantis Mad Dog Mahogany Llano 3D prestack depth migrate entire volume for final image Analyze migration velocities GULF OF MEXICO Discovery wells Older wells Salt > Recent deepwater Gulf of Mexico discoveries. In 1993. For BHP Billiton. each advancement has yielded an identiﬁable increase in production. Cumulative discoveries Barges 50 40 Jackups Semisubmersibles Hydrocarbon indicators 3D seismic. Reducing risk is a key concern for deepwater operators. but the rewards can be great. Depth imaging was performed to reduce drilling risk over many Gulf of Mexico discoveries such as Crazy Horse. Starting with the early achievements in drilling capability.5 Today. operators started testing 2D prestack depth migration as a way to improve images of layers truncating against the ﬂanks of salt domes. Building the velocity model itself requires iterations in prestack depth migration to deﬁne the velocity of each layer and the geometric boundaries of each layer. More recently. subsalt 30 20 10 0 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 Year > Impact of technological breakthroughs on Gulf of Mexico success rates.
Miller D. Ray AK and Hollingsworth R: “The History of a New Play: Crazy Horse Discovery. the shape of the actual arrival time of the shallowest reﬂector is compared with the predicted arrival times. Prestack depth imaging (right) retains the general shape of the body on the left.” Expanded Abstracts. obscuring deeper reﬂections. 1 (Spring 1996): 50–64. The salt body on the left has a domed top and a ﬂat base. However. The migrated traces are gathered again and arrival ﬂatness checked. with a sloping base. The salt body on the left is still domed. and the bottom of salt comes into focus. This step is time-consuming and requires experts in both processing and interpretation to create a model that satisﬁes the data at all control points. Instead of rising in an anticlinal structure. USA. USA (October 8-13. Chen RL. USA. Applying the correct migration technique can bring surprising changes to the seismic image. Yielding CA. Ray AK and Kapoor SJ: “Seeing Through the Fog: Improving the Seismic Image at Crazy intrusion (above). Instead of rising in an anticlinal structure. Peacock SG. Wendt WA. or structurally complex. 2002. and creates a shadow beneath. Tomography uses traveltime information derived from seismic data to reﬁne velocity models. Spring 2002 7 . Leach MC. The salt intrusion on the right appears to have pierced through the top of the anticline and left a dome of salt behind. the volume is again prestack depth migrated. each uplifting and doming the overlying sediments.” Oilﬁeld Review 8. which were shadowed in the time migration. Rutledge J and Woods R: “Exploring the Subsalt. the depth imaging reveals layers beneath. sediments are truncated along the ﬂanks of the salt hourglass. and creates a shadow beneath. 65th SEG International Meeting and Exposition. Duppenbecker SD. Texas. the velocities of the overburden can be used in a poststack depth migration to obtain an image of the top of salt.7 Ray tracing predicts the arrival times of reflections on common depth-point gathers at control points. Texas. most belonging to a category of methods called tomographic inversion. On each gather. 1995): 1161–1164. Deepwater Gulf of Mexico. Boyce RL. For more on subsalt exploration: Farmer P. March 10–13.” presented at the AAPG Annual Meeting. the velocity model is updated by ﬁlling the volume below the salt top with a uniform salt velocity. Layers can now be seen below the salt. Instead of two disconnected salt bodies. Velocity analysts have several ways of revising models. The next step applies depth migration using the updated velocity model. although its base is now sloping. The salt body on the left has a domed top and a ﬂat base. If the top of salt is rough. March 10–13. Rainey DI. The one on the right seems to be in two pieces: a ﬂoating salt pillow has detached from the dome below. prestack depth migration should be applied.Poststack Time Imaging Prestack Depth Imaging > Comparison of time migration and depth migration in the Green Canyon area of the Gulf of Mexico. Classical reﬂection tomography uses the difference between predicted and observed reﬂection traveltimes. no. With this new velocity model. If the preliminary time migration shows the top of salt to be smooth. Valasek PA and Branham KL: “Mahogany: Seismic Technology Leading to the First Economic Subsalt Field. The salt feature on the right looks entirely different. After the top of salt is imaged and interpreted. Pfau GE. but is thicker. Westcott ME. Houston. or structurally simple. Other types of tomography can use refracted or transmitted waves. the picture changes completely. With prestack depth imaging. Houston. Wyatt KD. The salt intrusion on the right has a completely different shape when depth migrated. The second step takes this velocity model and updates it. the new image shows a single hourglass-shaped body with clearly delineated sides and base. sediments are truncated along the ﬂanks of an hourglass-shaped salt body. and the velocity that best ﬂattens the actual arrival times is used to update the model. Texas. Judson MH. 2002.” presented at the AAPG Annual Meeting. 6. Pfau GE. Horse. Houston. The time migration (left) shows two salt bodies. Interpretation of one time-migrated section from the Green Canyon area of the Gulf of Mexico shows two anticlinal structures created by salt 5. 7. Yilmaz BY. Pieprzak A.
the undersides of salt overhangs can be imaged clearly.000 ft [12. Usually it is sufﬁcient to consider only those rays that bounce from the top side of a reﬂector. Interpretation of the prestack depth image (bottom) suggests that the two left-most salt bodies are not ﬂoating. North Sea basins exhibit expanses of chalk and largescale faulting above and below the salt. Imaging in the North Sea The Gulf of Mexico is not the only place where operators are using depth imaging. However. Properly accounting for these reﬂections in migration requires the ray tracing to be done over long distances. but connected to roots that extend to 40. > Time and depth migrations of three large salt features. layers that are overturned or below salt overhangs. but the bases are not (left). poststack time migration is able to image the northern ﬂank of a salt intrusion.” that is. The time migration did not use turning rays. Migration methods trace rays through the velocity model to a reﬂector. they might be interpreted at the lower limit of the zone that has little reﬂection or no character. There is some indication of layering between the salt bodies at great depth. In addition to tectonically active salt. called turning rays. Prestack depth imaging. Poststack time migration (top) reveals the tops of the salt intrusions. this method leaves an unclear image of the salt bases.200 m]. incorporating turning-ray energy as well as energy passing through the salt. Prestack depth migration reveals a surprisingly different image.000 ft [12. 8 Oilﬁeld Review . The root of the middle salt feature is about 3 miles [5 km] across. One of the achievements of the WesternGeco approach to prestack depth migration is the ability to image dips “beyond 90 degrees. The vast volume between the two salt roots is ﬁlled with dipping sediments that are truncated against the roots. The two large salt bodies on the left now are connected to roots that plunge to about 40. The rays bend at each interface according to the angle of incidence and the velocity contrast between layers.200 m]. in some cases. In another example from the Gulf of Mexico. The smoothly varying sand-shale sequences overlying the Gulf of Mexico salt bodies may seem simple by comparison. then follow the rays back to the surface. Many parts of the North Sea can claim structural complexity rivaling that of Gulf of Mexico salt intrusions.Poststack Time Imaging Prestack Depth Imaging In another portion of the Green Canyon area. reﬂections of interest can also occur from the bottom side—as in the case of reﬂections from underneath salt overhangs. illuminated the steeply dipping layers and the overhanging salt on the south ﬂank of the intrusion. bottom). the tops of three large salt pillows are fairly clearly imaged by poststack time migration. One reasonable interpretation would place the bases of the salt at the lower limit of the reﬂectionless area of the seismic image. but the southern side is lost in a shadow (next page. By taking advantage of these rays. However.
8. resulting in false targets. delineating seven producing ﬁelds. southern North Sea. overthrusts and salt intrusions.8 The area is structurally complex. K10 K13 53° NORTH SEA Ijmuiden 52° The Netherlands 3D Poststack Time Imaging South North 3D Prestack Depth Imaging South North Turning-ray reflection Constant velocity Varying velocity Salt > Imaging under a Gulf of Mexico salt overhang with time and depth migration. Deep channels cut into the Tertiary sequence that overlies a thick chalk unit of variable thickness and velocity. Dewey F. Wintershall Noordzee BV has achieved a clearer seismic picture of their reservoirs in this gas-producing region by applying prestack depth imaging. Poststack time migration (left) manages to image the north side of a salt diapir. Whitﬁeld P and King M: “Technology Offers New Insight in a Mature Area—A 3D PreSDM Case Study from the Dutch N Sea.” Transactions of the EAGE 63rd Conference and Technical Exhibition.Wintershall Noordzee BV began exploring in Blocks K10 and K13 in the Broad Fourteens basin of the Dutch sector of the North Sea in 1968 (right). 6° 54° < The K10 and K13 blocks in the Broad Fourteens basin. prestack depth migration (right) images the steeply dipping layers and the overhang on the south side of the intrusion. Spring 2002 9 . Highamplitude carbonate rafts can be mistakenly interpreted as Top Rotliegend reﬂectors. June 11–15. Large velocity contrasts around the salt domes and across major faults cause traditional seismic-imaging methods to produce poor pictures of structures and faults. with largescale normal faulting. more than 30 wells have been drilled. Since then. 2001. By including turning rays (inset) and rays that pass through the salt. As these ﬁelds enter their ﬁnal years of production. but the southern side is lost in a shadow created by an overhang. paper A-04. Amsterdam. The main reservoirs are even deeper—the Main Buntsandstein and Rotliegend sandstones. new technology is being deployed to identify additional reserves and extend the producing life of this mature area. The Netherlands.
Iterative layer-stripping formed the backbone of the analysis. combined with its steeply dipping ﬂanks. but used simplistic velocity-modeling techniques. The new project incorporated data from three 3D surveys covering an area of 880 km2 [340 sq. 10 Oilﬁeld Review . makes this problem difﬁcult to solve with time migration.An early depth-migration project in 1996 over a 50-km2 [19. a combination of tomography and multivelocity depth scans was Depth Imaging 1996 used to derive the model. In a second example. and the gathers were examined to monitor and update the velocities. and produced an unclear image of the top of the Rotliegend sandstone under a complex fault (left). but completely tractable with depth migration. What appears to be an isolated discontinuous reﬂection in time migration can be seen in the depth-migrated section to be an abrupt pop-up with near-vertical sides. top).3-sq. For example. The complex structure overlying the pop-up. along with the optimization of all available technologies. results from the 1996 project using a simple velocity model gave an unclear image of the top of the Rotliegend sandstone reservoir under a complex fault (below). a dense grid of 3D prestack depth migrations was generated. Enhanced imaging and increased resolution were required to improve understanding of the geological history of the area and identify remaining traps. while satisfying tight operational time and cost constraints. mile] portion of the two blocks showed some imaging improvements. The depth stacks were used to update the structural model. The success of every depth-migration project depends on the accuracy of the velocity model. For each layer. The additional effort put into deriving the detailed velocity model has shown the beneﬁts of aiming for the 90% correct solution rather than making do with a 70% result. and so the results lacked the detail to improve ﬁne-scale structural imaging. This allowed both the structural and velocity variations to be continuously and consistently tracked and checked for each of the 11 layers in the model as it was built. A complete reinterpretation of the area is under way and will be combined with a basinmodeling study to improve deﬁnition of the producing ﬁelds and identify the presence of any untested reservoir compartments. more detailed velocity model gives a much clearer image of the potential reservoir interval (right). especially in the tectonically complex areas. The project’s success relied on close cooperation between processing geophysicists. In 1999. a feature that is difﬁcult to interpret in the time-migrated section becomes identiﬁable as a “pop-up” of the Rotliegend formation in the properly depth-migrated image Depth Imaging 1999 (next page. interpreters and researchers from both Wintershall and WesternGeco. To verify the velocities of each layer. The new images showed signiﬁcant improvements over the previous time. Rotliegend sandstone > Comparison of depth migrations with simple and complex velocity models. To create an accurate model.and depthmigrated data sets. a meticulous approach was developed using a combination of state-of-the-art tools and more conventional techniques. Depth migration with the newer. Depth migration for an earlier project used a simple velocity model. The new depth migration with the detailed velocity model gave a much clearer image of this potential reservoir interval. Wintershall and WesternGeco carried out a high-fidelity 3D prestack depth migration of both blocks. miles].
June 11–15. Q4 Q5 54° No inversion Low reservoir risk Basin margin terrace Low reservoir risk Inverted terrace Moderate reservoir risk Deeply inverted terrace High reservoir risk Basin axis. Amsterdam. In the depth-migrated image (right). Clyde Petroleum and partners recently deployed state-of-the-art depth imaging in a renewed effort to explore. After the drilling of the ﬁrst successful exploration well. now upthrust along reactivated faults) bounded by a series of major NW-SE-striking faults. paper P071. Brown G. appraise and extend existing gas discoveries in Blocks Q4 and Q8 of the Dutch North Sea (right). operators used depth imaging to improve delineation of reserves and increase reserve estimates. The recently discovered Q4 gas ﬁelds lie in a complex inversion zone (once low-lying. seven dry wells had been drilled on shallower prospects. and early conventional seismic processing gave suboptimal results. A disrupted interval in the time-migrated section (left) is difﬁcult to interpret. The new ﬁelds are on a trend with two producing gas ﬁelds in the Q8 block. Kemme M. 2001. Color-coding shows regions with different tectonic histories.Time Imaging Depth Imaging > Complex Rotliegend structure revealed by depth imaging. The tectonic history had produced highly deformed structures. Before Clyde Petroleum began operating the block. followed by complete reinterpretation. a new program called for a comprehensive 3D prestack depth migration.” Transactions of the EAGE 63rd Conference and Technical Exhibition. Building Reserves through Depth Imaging In another North Sea development. maximum burial and inversion Very high reservoir risk Gas 53° NORTH SEA Q4 Q5 Q7 Q8 Ijmuiden The Netherlands 52° > Gas reservoirs (red) operated by Clyde Petroleum Exploratie BV in the Q4 and Q8 blocks of the Dutch sector of the North Sea. The Netherlands. this becomes identiﬁable as a pop-up of the Rotliegend formation. VanBuuren N and Greenwood M: “Depth Imaging Unfolds Complex Geology and Impacts Reserves—The Q4 Story. Spring 2002 Coastline Q7 Br oa dF ou rte en sB as in Q8 11 .9 9.
and fault positioning was questionable. bottom). increasing the reservoir volume. better seismic deﬁnition decreased uncertainty in the reserves estimate and allowed for detailed interpretation of faults within the reservoir. the data were stacked. This procedure was iterated layer by layer within each fault block until the base horizon had been inserted into the velocity model. layer-stripping approach to velocity modeling was not considered adequate. reverse and lateral movements had placed the basin ﬁll on top of the reservoir block. were input to the prestack depth migration. A range of velocity maps based on the starting velocity was used to output a 3D prestack depth-migrated grid of inlines over the target area. this fault had been imaged as an easterly dipping normal fault.The complex history of normal. As a result of the improved seismic quality. Within each block. The subsequent 3D prestack depth-migrated volume provided a signiﬁcant improvement in the quality and conﬁdence of the seismic image. a model based on well data was used. but before stack. This improved imaging also had a signiﬁcant impact on the interpretation of the eastern bounding fault. Then. and increased the interpreter’s understanding of the structural model and conﬁdence in the fault positioning (next page. not only did the apparent volume of the structure increase significantly. the traditional top-down. conventional preprocessing ﬂow with emphasis on noise reduction and multiple attenuation. The robust methodology followed throughout the project allowed the construction of an accurate velocity model for this complex area. with up to six velocity layers below the area-wide Tertiary layer on top (below). In-line 3600 0 3800 4000 4200 4400 4600 4800 Due to the complex nature of the geology.10 Each data set was depth migrated individually and merged after migration. Additionally. Depth. Time-migrated images of these steeply dipping structures were limited in quality. Residual moveout correction was performed. stacking velocities would be used to derive initial interval velocities for a particular layer. Each data set was processed through a similar. for inclusion in the velocity model. approximately 400 km2 [154 sq. Therefore. Four 3D data sets.12 Finally. The new depth data showed notable improvements over the time-migrated data. and revealed that the position of the fault was farther to the west. adding an extra fault block of gas-bearing reservoir. However. The prestack depth migration enabled targeting of the second exploration well near a major fault without risk of encountering a reduced reservoir section. The red box delineates the area of interest. 12 Oilﬁeld Review . but also the better data quality resulted in a much more detailed interpretation of intrareservoir faults. However. and appropriate poststack processing was applied. Because of poor imaging of the traditionally migrated seismic data. These lines were used 5000 5200 5400 5600 5800 6000 6200 6400 SW NE 500 1000 Zone 1 Zone 2 Zone 3 Zone 4 Zone 5 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500 Tertiary 4000 Chalk Lower Cretaceous Upper Jurassic Lower Jurassic Triassic Permian Pre-Permian flood 4500 5000 to interpret the target horizon in depth. but the inclination of the fault blocks dictated the order in which the velocity model should be built—from southwest to northeast. with the expectation that the results could have a strong impact on the size of the structure and the planning of the development wells. top). Although the individual data sets had different orientations. due to low conﬁdence in the stacking velocities in this complex area. Image ray-tracing and boreholeseismic results indicated that lateral fault mispositioning could be as much as 300 m [1000 ft]. m > Velocity model for the Q4 reservoir blocks. major velocity contrasts were expected. The Q4-A ﬁeld came on-stream in December 2000. The prestack depth-migration project was initiated to better understand the structural framework and correctly position faults. velocity was determined layer by layer. a 500-m [1640-ft] grid of 3D prestack depth-migrated in-lines and crosslines was generated. only 21⁄2 years after the ﬁrst exploration well was drilled. This allowed for more reliable planning for three to ﬁve future development wells. miles] of seismic data. Phase matching and amplitude compensation were applied to each survey to match all surveys to a common base. The structural model indicated that the 3D velocity model could be divided into ﬁve separate NW-SE-trending velocity blocks. The updated structural interpretation resulted in an increase of almost 50% in gas initially in place (next page. reducing the risk of leaving compartments undrained.11 A ﬁnal velocity map for the target layer was then derived by interactively picking on the depth-migrated common image-point gathers. the superior resolution of the new images shows that the reservoir-bounding fault is actually a westerly dipping reverse fault. Steeply dipping faults laterally juxtapose contrasting velocities and place high-velocity layers on top of lower velocity layers. depending on the overburden velocity model. the ﬁnal velocity model was used to generate a full 3D prestack depth-migrated volume on a 25-m by 25-m [82-ft by 82-ft] grid. Typically. no resampling was required.
A CIP gather is created by searching over all possible rays in the acquisition geometry and collecting those that reﬂect at the point of interest. Interpretation of the depth-migrated image (right) changes the picture.Time Imaging 1996 Prestack Depth Imaging 1999 GWC > Comparison of interpreted time. Interpretation of depth-migrated seismic data moved faults and added roughly 50% to the gas reserves in this reservoir. Imaging targets in “fault shadows” is a challenge with time-migration techniques. but until recently. previously not recognized. 10. adding volume to the reservoir on the west. The normal fault on the east is no longer considered a bounding fault. The reevaluated reservoir boundary is a westerly dipping reverse fault (red). Combining data sets from different surveys requires phase and amplitude of all data sets to be matched. which may vary from one survey to another. and on the east by an easterly dipping normal fault (black). 11. The approximate gas-water contact (GWC) is indicated. depth-imaging projects on land are now showing the same level of improvement over time-based methods as their Gulf of Mexico and North Sea counterparts. Prestack Depth Migration on Land Many onshore prospects have the same imaging problems encountered offshore. land-based seismic campaigns were less successful at imaging complex structures. Phase and amplitude of seismic traces are affected by the timing and power characteristics of the acquisition source and by processing. A common image-point (CIP) gather is the set of all traces that reﬂect at the subsurface point being imaged.and depth-migrated seismic lines over the reservoir in the Q4 block. The increase in reservoir size is shown in pink. Exploration in south Texas is notorious for complications caused by complex structures overlying potential reservoirs. Interpretation of the time-migrated image (left) shows a block of reservoir bounded on the west by a thrust fault (yellow). new fault interpretations are shown in blue. However. A crossline is a seismic line perpendicular to the direction of survey acquisition. The new interpretation raises the thrust fault (white line). Q4-A Time-migrationbased field outline Gained area New prestack depth-migrationbased faults Old time-migrationbased faults Old time-migrationbased field outline Q4-B Spring 2002 13 . but depth migration gives much clearer pictures and more geologically reasonable features. 0 0 feet meters 6560 2000 < Increase in gas initially in place resulting from interpretation of depth-migrated seismic data. Old fault interpretations are shown in black. 12. An in-line is a seismic line within a 3D survey parallel to the direction of towed-streamer acquisition. Faults create shadows that obscure the shape and disposition of deeper layers.
and the gently dipping layers on the lower ﬂank of the salt show a mis-tie with formation depths measured in a well. such as elastic properties. Much of the subsurface is anisotropic in some physical property. The reﬂections in this section dip less steeply on the left side of the fault than do the corresponding reﬂections in the time-migrated section. Syria. This occurs when the seismic velocity has one value parallel to bedding and a different value perpendicular. Prestack depth imaging with a model that includes 10% anisotropy in the overburden produces a clearer image and one that ties with well data. Germany. permeability or electromagnetic properties. velocity parallel to bedding is greater than transverse velocity. The layers on the upthrown. particularly along the interpreted horizon. the layers in the shadow of the salt overhang are not as clear as they could be. The false structural high has diminished. top left). An interpretation of the depth-migrated section produces a different depth and shape to the layers beneath the fault. mile [256-km2] WesternGeco multiclient survey in south Texas. or transverse. the reﬂections on the left side of the fault appear to be broken and have less continuity than reﬂections on the right side of the fault. side of the fault. the effects of strong anisotropy can produce a suboptimal data set if not taken into consideration. Also.14 Prestack depth imaging with an isotropic velocity model produces a fairly clear image of the sediment layers uptilted by a North Sea salt intrusion. although older than the layers on the right.000 2. or left. The false structural high seen in the time-migrated data has become smoother. seismic data processing ignores anisotropy. However. In the time-migrated image. Because this algorithm uses ray tracing. and reﬂection continuity is improved. small errors in the shape or location of the salt interface can cause migration artifacts. The lateral velocity contrasts cause seismic rays to bend as they cross the fault. appears beneath the fault on this section. The depth-migrated section shows a different picture. One that has received recent attention is anisotropy. The depth-migrated section shows gently dipping and continuous structures in the fault shadow. Ignoring anisotropy can result in vertically and horizontally mispositioned structures. the United Arab Emirates. Kuwait. These imaging problems are caused by the juxtaposition of rocks of different velocities on opposite sides of the fault (next page. Argentina. In typical cases of TI anisotropy. One example of benefits gained through prestack depth migration is from a regional. the reﬂections beneath the fault appear to be broken and have less continuity than reﬂections on the right side of the fault. Usually. including Venezuela. The limitations to overcome center around creation of the velocity model. velocity complexities cause a false anticline immediately to the left of the fault plane denoted by arrows. China. WesternGeco has performed 3D depth-imaging projects in many of the world’s oil-producing countries.6 Depth. ft 2. A conventional timemigrated image across a large normal fault shows some of the typical problems seen in this area (above). 14 Oilﬁeld Review .4 Time. Kazakhstan. Reaching Full Potential Today’s methods are more accurate than earlier ones. potentially yielding a different exploration target. Ray bending distorts the seismic image in the time domain. However. Libya. and so have lower seismic velocities. 100-sq.000 > A time-migrated (left) and depth-migrated section (right) from south Texas. Identifying which imaging problems require anisotropic velocity models and which ones are simply displaying velocity heterogeneity will become easier as more areas are tested. Traces from long offsets arrive earlier than predicted from a model with isotropic velocity because they have traveled longer in the faster. but sometimes it has difﬁculty imaging features under rugose salt bodies. but the full potential of depth imaging has not yet been reached. top right). and reﬂection continuity is improved. The effects of anisotropy can be seen as a nonhyperbolic shape in the arrivals from a ﬂat reﬂector (next page. to bedding.Time Imaging 10. deciding what type of migration produces the best images. Anisotropy can be incorporated into a prestack depth-migration velocity model. Several factors can complicate the modelbuilding process. A pronounced false anticline.2 Depth Imaging 2. Prestack Kirchhoff migration has been particularly effective in salt and subsalt imaging in the Gulf of Mexico. Depth migration has been successful in other parts of the world where land-seismic results are known to be problematic. Egypt. or “pull-up” of the seismic reﬂections. msec 2. Bolivia.8 12. Processing experts debate which type of migration is best for imaging extremely complex volumes. and the time required for completion of depth-imaging projects.000 14. with conspicuous results (next page. bottom). Australia and Nigeria. Also. horizontal direction.13 The simplest form of elastic anisotropy is called transverse isotropy (TI). are overpressured. Russia.
Furthermore.000 11. seeing the difference in one seismic section forces the realization that all other data acquired in complex areas probably deserve a second look. ft/sec 11. Armstrong P. Experts predict that in the future. Isotropic Depth Imaging Anisotropic Depth Imaging Well top Well top > Prestack depth imaging in the North Sea with an isotropic (left) and an anisotropic (right) velocity model. Including 10% anisotropy in the velocity of the overburden helps to produce a clearer image of the layers that are truncated against a salt intrusion and produces a better depth match to well data. Hornby B. no. May 27–30.464 Anisotropic Isotropic 13. 4 (October 1994): 36–47. operators often change their interpretations and plans. The Netherlands. showing the fault interpreted on seismic data. paper A-01. it is possible to use depth imaging in a cost-effective manner on multiclient projects to improve understanding of regional geological petroleum systems. 2002. Schoenberg M. and can produce better images. To them.000 12.736 10. After seeing the difference between depth-imaged data and conventional time-imaged sections. The WesternGeco approach to applying depth imaging on speculative regional-scale data sets is helping make the technology available to operating companies of all sizes.696 Offset Depth. Albertin U. Depth migration brings a viable solution to complex imaging problems. it appears that this technology is only for the super-major operators. June 11–15. Spring 2002 15 . the process will become more efﬁcient. Chmela B. As more operators gain experience with the technique. Other operators are reluctant to apply depth imaging because of the costs involved in acquiring and processing target-speciﬁc data. Leaney S and Lynn H: “The Promise of Elastic Anisotropy.” Transactions of the EAGE 63rd Conference and Technical Exhibition.15 Efﬁciency gains and the use of larger computer systems have shortened project cycle times. However. Kitchenside P and Yingst D: “Improving Near-Salt-Flank Imaging with Shot-Proﬁle Waveﬁeld-Extrapolation Migration in the Gulf of Mexico. If the layer were isotropic. Kapoor SJ. Italy. Watts D. Esmersoy C. In such areas.232 14.” Oilﬁeld Review 6. essentially all seismic data will be depth imaged. whether for prospect exploration or reservoir develop- ment. Oil companies and contractors should share the responsibility to deﬁne realistic time frames. Bloor R. This approach uses waveﬁeld extrapolation instead of ray tracing.000 14. Ireson D. 15.” to be presented at the EAGE 64th Conference and Technical Exhibition. Stork C. Dodds K. But service companies continue to be pressured to depth-image larger areas and to do it quickly. Chang W.000 Interval velocity.000 13. Amsterdam. the arrivals would deﬁne the black curve. —LS 13. Florence.10. > Depth-migration velocity model for south Texas survey. the arrivals would deﬁne the red curve. Sayers C. Whitﬁeld P and Fisk K: “Anisotropic Prestack Depth Migration and Model Building. and if the layer were anisotropic. 2001. Some operators now insist on depth imaging before drilling in deep water or other high-risk areas. ft Two-way time 12. 14.000 > Comparison of arrival times versus offset for an isotropic and an anisotropic layer. finite-difference prestack migration can provide effective imaging.
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