Imaging Beneath Complex Structure
Published:January 01, 1983
K. Larner, B. Gibson, R. Chambers, 1983. "Imaging Beneath Complex Structure", Seismic Expression of Structural Styles: A Picture and Work Atlas. Volume 1–The Layered Earth, Volume 2–Tectonics Of Extensional Provinces, & Volume 3–Tectonics Of Compressional Provinces, A. W. Bally
Download citation file:
Migration is recognized as the essential step in converting seismic data into a representation of the earth's subsurface structure. Ironically, conventional migration often fails where migration is needed most - when the data are recorded over complex structures. Processing field data shot in Central America and synthetic data derived for that section demonstrates that time migration actually degrades the image of the deep structure that lies below a complicated overburden.
In the Central American example, velocities increase nearly two-fold across an arched and thrustfaulted interface. Wavefront distortion introduced by this feature gives rise to distorted reflections from depth. Even with interval velocity known perfectly, no velocity is proper for time migrating the data here; time migration is the wrong process because it does not honor Snell's law. Depth migration of the stacked data, on the other hand, produces a reasonable image of the deeper section. The depth migration, however, leaves artifacts that could be attributed to problems that are common in structurally complicated areas: (1) departures of the stacked section from the ideal, a zero-offset section; (2) incorrect specification of velocities; and (3) loss of energy transmitted through the complex zone.
For such an inhomogeneous velocity structure, shortcomings in common midpoint stacking are directly related to highly non-hyperbolic moveout. As with migration velocity, no proper stacking velocity can be developed for these data, even from the known interval-velocity model. Proper treatment of nonzero-offset reflection data could be accomplished by depth migration before stacking. Simple ray-theoretical correction of the complex moveouts, however, can produce a stack that is similar to the desired zero-offset section.
Overall, the choice of a velocity model most strongly influences the results of depth migration. Processing the data with a range of plausible velocity models, however, leads to an important conclusion: although the velocities can never be known exactly, depth migration is essential for clarifying structure beneath complex overburden.
Figures & Tables
Seismic Expression of Structural Styles: A Picture and Work Atlas. Volume 1–The Layered Earth, Volume 2–Tectonics Of Extensional Provinces, & Volume 3–Tectonics Of Compressional Provinces
Until a few decades ago, structural and regional geology were traditionally the preserve of field geologists. They usually mapped areas of outcropping deformed rocks and supplemented their work by laboratory studies of rock deformation and by theoretical work. Structural geology became tied to the geology of uplifts, folded belts, and underground mines, all of which were accessible to direct observation. Since World War II we have witnessed a tremendous development of geophysics in oceanography and in petroleum geology. Academic geophysicists in oceanography led their geological colleagues into modern plate tectonics and industry geophysicists developed reflection seismology into a superb structural mapping tool that penetrated the subsurface.
Today we are facing a situation where instruction and textbooks in structural geology are almost entirely dedicated to rock deformation, analytical techniques in detailed field geology and summaries of plate tectonics. Illustrations based on reflection seismic profiles are virtually absent in textbooks of structural geology. These texts illustrate only the parts of the proverbial elephant, together with some conjecture, but without ever offering a glimpse of the whole elephant.
Some of the reason cited for the relative scarcity of published reflection profiles are: 1) the confidentiality of exploration data; 2) difficulties in the photographic reduction and reproduction of seismic profiles for a book format; 3) the two-dimensional nature of vertical reflection profiles; and 4) the obvious distortions in reflection profiles that are typically recorded in time.
The AAPG leadership felt that it was time to attempt to correct the situation and to produce this picture and work atlas. The first volumes, of what may become a series of volumes, are addressing an audience that includes: petroleum geologists concerned with structural interpretations; exploration companies that provide in-house training; the AAPG continuing education program; and academic colleagues interested in updating their curricula in structural geology by inclusion of reflection profiles from the “real world” in their teaching.
The atlas is not meant to be a textbook in reflection seismology (instead we listed some at the end of this introduction) nor a text in structural and/or regional geology. Our intent is simply to provide a teaching tool.