Unexpected incidents leading to lost time when the rig is on location cause unplanned cost to the hydrocarbon industry of over one billion dollars annually. Processing and interpretation of 3D seismic data usually focuses on reservoir levels. But from a drillers perspective, geological features of the overburden are often more significant than those at reservoir level, since over 90% of the well is typically spent drilling the overburden, coping with a wider variety of challenges than those associated with the reservoir itself. 3D seismic data defines overburden tectonostratigraphy, the framework of a geological model that can be used in well planning to reduce geological uncertainty, surprises and expense along the whole well track. Many technologies applied in reservoir modelling are equally valid in defining overburden features relevant to well planning. The overburden 3D volume can be populated with key parameters for well design, such as pore pressure and geomechanical attributes, though the complexity of the model will often be restricted by well cost and perception of drilling risk. The role of 3D seismic data in forming the tectonostratigraphic framework of multi-attribute, kilometre-scale Earth models, is illustrated here by a number of examples where model sophistication has been scaled to match project requirements. Overburden Earth models also provide a framework where several ‘academic’ research themes, for instance 3D fault geometry, can be put into a commercial context. Construction of overburden models for well planning has also highlighted a number of future geological research areas that could have a significant impact on drilling performance. Some of these, such as hydraulic properties of fault systems, are highlighted here.