We have developed an extension of the mixture-density neural network as a computationally efficient probabilistic method to solve nonlinear inverse problems. In this method, any postinversion (a posteriori) joint probability density function (PDF) over the model parameters is represented by a weighted sum of multivariate Gaussian PDFs. A mixture-density neural network estimates the weights, mean vector, and covariance matrix of the Gaussians given any measured data set. In one study, we have jointly inverted compressional- and shear-wave velocity for the joint PDF of porosity, clay content, and water saturation in a synthetic, fluid-saturated, dispersed sand-shale system. Results show that if the method is applied appropriately, the joint PDF estimated by the neural network is comparable to the Monte Carlo sampled a posteriori solution of the inverse problem. However, the computational cost of training and using the neural network is much lower than inversion by sampling (more than a factor of 104 in this case and potentially a much larger factor for 3D seismic inversion). To analyze the performance of the method on real exploration geophysical data, we have jointly inverted P-wave impedance and Poisson's ratio logs for the joint PDF of porosity and clay content. Results show that the posterior model PDF of porosity and clay content is a good estimate of actual porosity and clay-content log values. Although the results may vary from one field to another, this fast, probabilistic method of solving nonlinear inverse problems can be applied to invert well logs and large seismic data sets for petrophysical parameters in any field.

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