It is usually believed that angular aperture of seismic data should be at least 20° to allow estimation of the subsurface anisotropy. Although this is certainly true for reflection data, for which anisotropy parameters are inverted from the stacking velocities or the nonhyperbolic moveout, traveltimes of direct P- and S-waves recorded in typical downhole microseismic geometries make it possible to infer seismic anisotropy in angular apertures as narrow as about 10°. To ensure the uniqueness of such an inversion, it has to be performed in a local coordinate frame tailored to a particular data set. Because any narrow fan of vectors is naturally characterized by its average direction, we choose the axes of the local frame to coincide with the polarization vectors of three plane waves corresponding to such a direction. This choice results in a significant simplification of the conventional equations for the phase and group velocities in anisotropic media and makes it possible to predict which elements of the elastic stiffness tensor are constrained by the available data. We illustrate our approach on traveltime synthetics and then apply it to perforation-shot data recorded in a shale-gas field. Our case study indicates that isotropic velocity models are inadequate and accounting for seismic anisotropy is a prerequisite for building a physically sound model that explains the recorded traveltimes.

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