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Pitfalls in Seismic Data

Julia Mulhern and Allie Jackson

1. Velocity Artifacts
2. Fault Shadow Artifacts
3. Structural Feature Artifacts
4. Migration Artifacts
5. Other Artifacts

Velocity Artifacts
1. Bad Velocity Model
2. Basinward Thinning
3. Reefs
4. Channels
5. Velocity Pull up and Pull Downs caused by salt
6. Dim Spots

Bad Velocity Model

Original Data - unclear how the

channel features and pay
interval are related.

Reprocessed Data improved velocity model

shows that there is a
channel structure below well

Pitfall: Poor velocity

estimate leads to an
inaccurate interpretation.

(Nanda et al. 2008)

Basinward Thinning

Thinning from left to right

Actually time interval, not bed, thinning from left to right
-Increase in compaction basinwards
-Increase in interval velocity with depth (basinwards)

Pitfall: Assuming that all seismic

section thinning must mean thinning
in the beds.
(Tucker and Yorston, 1972)


Pitfall: Higher reef velocities can cause basal reflector uplift in time migrated

(Tucker and Yorston, 1972)


Pitfall: Not considering

that a water filled
channel can increase
travel times below the
cut, leading to an
apparent syncline
beneath the channel.

Check: Does the purported syncline

maintain the same size and shape with
(Tucker and Yorston, 1972)

Velocity Pull up and Pull Downs caused by salt

Pitfall: Salt (white boxes) causes velocity pull ups (orange arrows) and pull downs
(white arrows).
(Okere and Toothill 2012)

Dim Spots
dim spot = reduction in
amplitude caused by

Pitfall: Normally when hydrocarbon replaces water in a sand reservoir a bright spot
is created, however at depth after the impedance curves have cross over,
replacing water with hc decreases the velocity contrast, creating a dim spot.
(Brown, 2005)

Fault Artifacts
1. Fault Shadow: Normal Fault
2. Fault Shadow: Reverse Fault
3. Vertical Faults

Fault Shadow: Normal Fault

Fault Shadow:
An area near a fault where seismic wave propagation is distorted,
generally under the footwall zone of the fault.
Fault shadows of reverse faults tend to be more severe as these are
often associated with more displacement.

Pitfall: Interpreting the rollover as

a drag fold into a normal fault.

(Tucker and Yorston, 1972)

Fault Shadow: Reverse Fault

Pitfall: Interpreting flexure beneath a

fault as something geologic when it is
actually a function of higher velocities in
the overthrust material.
(Tucker and Yorston, 1972)

Vertical Faults

Zones thinner on right

No fault shadow
Still potential abrupt velocity
changes across the fault

Pitfall: Layer thickness can appear to change across

vertical faults depending on the velocity distribution.
(Tucker and Yorston, 1972)

Structural Feature Artifacts

1. Anticline
2. Syncline
3.Thrust Belt Complications


Pitfall: In addition to the fold complications, additional

pitfalls come when faults occur at the apex of a fold.

(Tucker and Yorston, 1972)


Unmigrated Section

Pitfall: Synclines create bowtie features that are

removed with migration.

Migrated Section

(Tucker and Yorston, 1972)

Thrust Belt Complications

High surface velocities can scatter waves and can be detrimental to wave propagation
further into the subsurface.
Additional complications associated with thrust belts involve structural complexity
(complicated fold geometry, steep dips, faults, etc.).

Pitfall: Thrust belts can place high velocity material over low velocity
material, distoring the image below the thrust.
(Alaei, 2012)

Migration Artifacts
1. Comparing time vs. depth sections
2. Migration Algorithm
3. Pre Stack vs. Post Stack Migration

Comparing time vs. depth sections

Time Migration

Depth Migration

Pitfall: Time vs. Depth migration can alter the data. In this case depth migration
improved the data.
Circled area: enhanced sub-salt resoltion in the depth migrated section
Orange Arrow: artifact within the salt that does not exist in the depth migrated section.
(Okere and Toothill 2012)

Migration Algorithm
- Left hand images being made with a
wave equation algorithm
- Right column made with a Kirchhoff

Pitfall: The migration algorithm being

used determines the quality of the data.

(Reasnor 2007)

Pre Stack vs. Post Stack Migration

Pre Stack Depth

Migration (1st
Iteration )

Post Stack Depth Migration

Pitfall: Pre vs. Post stacking and number

of migrations can alter the data signature.

(Herron 2000)

Pre Stack Depth Migration

(2nd Iteration )

Other Artifacts
1. Data Polarity
2. Lateral Amplitude Changes

Data Polarity

- European and American seismic data have different polarity

- For zero phase data the pulses are co-located.
Pitfall: Polarity must be known before interpretation.
(Brown 2005)

Data Polarity
The polarity of
the data makes
one of these
strong reflectors
prospective while
the other is likely
a hard bed.

Pitfall: Polarity must be taken into account when assessing reflectors.

(Brown 2005)

Lateral Amplitude Changes

Pitfall: Inconsistent coverage leads to a misinterpretation of prospect size.

(Brown 2005)

Alaei, B., 2012, Seismic Modeling of Complex Geological Structures, Seismic Waves - Research and Analysis, Dr.
Masaki Kanao (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-307-944-8, InTech, DOI: 10.5772/29423.
Brown, A. R., 2005, Pitfalls in 3D seismic interpretation: Keynote presentation at the 11th Annual 3-D Seismic
Symposium, Denver: The Leading Edge, v. 24, no. 7, p. 716-717.
Herron, D. A., 2000, Pitfalls in seismic interpreataion: Depth migration artifacts: The Leading Edge, v. 19, no. 9.
Nanda, N., Ram Singh, and Satinder Chopra, 2008, Seismic Artifacts - a case study: CSEG Recorder.
Okere, D., and Toothill, S., 2012, New insights into hydrocarbon plays in the Caspian Sea, Kazakhstan: Petroleum
Geoscience, v. 18, no. 3, p. 253-268.
Reasnor, M. D., 2007, Salt interpretation practices for depth imaging in the Gulf of Mexico: The Leading Edge, v. 26, no.
Sain, K., and Kaila, K. L., 1996, Ambiguity in the solution to the velocity inversion problem and a solution by joint
inversion of seismic refraction and wide-angle reflection times: Geophysical Journal International, v. 124, no. 1, p. 215227.
Tucker, P., and Yorston, H., 1972, Pitfalls in Seismic Interpretation, from Esso Production Research Company, 40 p.