Prestack depth migration has been used for decades to derive velocity distributions in depth. Numerous tools and methodologies have been developed to reach this goal. Exploration in geologically more complex areas exceeds the abilities of existing methods. New data-acquisition and data-processing methods are required to answer these new challenges effectively. The recently introduced wide-azimuth data acquisition method offers better illumination and noise attenuation as well as an opportunity to more accurately determine velocities for imaging. One of the most advanced tools for depth imaging is full-waveform inversion. Prestack seismic full-waveform inversion is very challenging because of the nonlinearity and nonuniqueness of the solution. Combined with multiple iterations of forward modeling and residual wavefield back propagation, the method is computer intensive, especially for 3D projects. We studied a time-domain, plane-wave implementation of 3D waveform inversion. We found that plane-wave gathers are an attractive input to waveform inversion with dramatically reduced computer run times compared to traditional shot-gather approaches. The study was conducted on two synthetic data sets — Marmousi2 and SMAART Pluto 1.5 — and a field data set. The results showed that a velocity field can be reconstructed well using a multiscale time-domain implementation of waveform inversion. Although the time-domain solution does not take advantage of wavenumber redundancy, the method is feasible on current computer architectures for 3D surveys. The inverted velocity volume produces a quality image for exploration geologists by using numerous iterations of waveform inversion.

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