Increasingly, we must deal with complex subsurface structures in seismic exploration, often resulting in poor illumination and, therefore, poor image quality. Consequently, it is desirable to take into consideration the effects of wave propagation in the subsurface structure when designing an acquisition geometry. We developed a new, model-based implementation of the previously introduced focal-beam analysis method. The method's objective is to provide quantitative insight into the combined influence of acquisition geometry, overburden structure, and migration operators on image resolution and angle-dependent amplitude accuracy. This is achieved by simulation of migrated grid-point responses using focal beams. Note that the seismic response of any subsurface can be composed of a linear sum of grid-point responses. The focal beams have been chosen because any migration process represents double focusing. In addition, the focal source beam and focal detector beam relate migration quality to illumination properties of the source geometry and sensing properties of the detector geometry, respectively. Wave-equation modeling ensures that frequency-dependent effects in the seismic-frequency range are incorporated. We tested our method by application to a 3D salt model in the Gulf of Mexico. Investigation of well-sampled, all-azimuth, long-offset acquisition geometries revealed fundamental illumination and sensing limitations. Further results exposed the shortcomings of narrow-azimuth data acquisition. The method also demonstrates how acquisition-related amplitude errors affect seismic inversion results.

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