ABSTRACT

The field of subsalt imaging has evolved rapidly in the last decade, thanks in part to the availability of low cost massive computing infrastructure, and also to the development of new seismic acquisition techniques that try to mitigate the problems caused by the presence of salt. This paper serves as an introduction to the special Geophysics section on Subsalt Imaging for E&P. The purpose of the special section is to bring together practitioners of subsalt imaging in the wider sense, i.e., not only algorithm developers, but also the interpretation community that utilizes the latest technology to carry out subsalt exploration and development. The purpose of the paper is in many ways pedagogical and historical. We address the question of what subsalt imaging is and discuss the physics of the subsalt imaging problem, especially the illumination issue. After a discussion of the problem, we then give a review of the main algorithms that have been developed and implemented within the last decade, namely Kirchhoff and Beam imaging, one-way wavefield extrapolation methods and the full two-way reverse time migration. This review is not meant to be exhaustive, and is qualitative to make it accessible to a wide audience. For each method and algorithm we highlight the benefits and the weaknesses. We then address the imaging conditions that are a fundamental part of each imaging algorithm. While we dive into more technical detail, the section should still be accessible to a wide audience. Gathers of various sorts are introduced and their usage explained. Model building and velocity update strategies and tools are presented next. Finally, the last section shows a few results from specific algorithms. The latest techniques such as waveform inversion or the “dirty salt” techniques will not be covered, as they will be elaborated upon by other authors in the special section. With the massive effort that the industry has devoted to this field, much remains to be done to give interpreters the accurate detailed images of the subsurface that are needed. In that sense the salt is still winning, although the next decade will most likely change this situation.

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