Shallow water flows and over-pressured zones are a major hazard in deepwater drilling projects. Their detection prior to drilling would save millions of dollars in lost drilling costs. I have investigated the sensitivity of seismic methods for this purpose. Using P-wave information alone can be ambiguous, because a drop in P-wave velocity (Vp) can be caused both by overpressure and by presence of gas. The ratio of P-wave velocity to S-wave velocity (Vp/Vs), which increases with overpressure and decreases with gas saturation, can help differentiate between the two cases. Since P-wave velocity in a suspension is slightly below that of the suspending fluid and Vs = 0, Vp/Vs and Poisson's ratio must increase exponentially as a load-bearing sediment approaches a state of suspension. On the other hand, presence of gas will also decrease Vp but Vs will remain unaffected and VpVs will decrease. Analyses of ultrasonic P- and S-wave velocities in sands show that the Vp/Vs ratio, especially at low effective pressures, decreases rapidly with pressure. At very low pressures, Vp/Vs values can be as large as 100 and higher. Above pressures greater than 2 MPa, it plateaus and does not change much with pressure. There is significant change in signal amplitudes and frequency of shear waves below 1 MPa. The current ultrasonic data shows that Vp/Vs values can be invaluable indicators of low differential pressures.

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