Structural interpretation of seismic data presents numerous opportunities for encountering interpretational pitfalls, particularly when a seismic image does not have an appropriate signal-to-noise ratio (S/N), or when a subsurface structure is unexpectedly complex. When both conditions exist — low S/N data and severe structural deformation — interpretation pitfalls are almost guaranteed. We analyzed an interpretation done 20 years ago that had to deal with poor seismic data quality and extreme distortion of strata. The lessons learned still apply today. Two things helped the interpretation team develop a viable structural model of the prospect. First, existing industry-accepted formation tops assigned to regional wells were rejected and new log interpretations were done to detect evidence of repeated sections and overturned strata. Second, the frequency content of the 3D seismic data volume was restricted to only the first octave of its seismic spectrum to create better evidence of fault geometries. A logical and workable structural interpretation resulted when these two action steps were taken. To the knowledge of our interpretation team, neither of these approaches had been attempted in the area at the time of this work (early 1990s). We found two pitfalls that may be encountered by other interpreters. The first pitfall was the hazard of accepting long-standing, industry-accepted definitions of the positions of formation tops on well logs. This nonquestioning acceptance of certain log signatures as indications of targeted formation tops led to a serious misinterpretation in our study. The second pitfall was the prevailing passion by geophysicists to create seismic data volumes that have the widest possible frequency spectrum. This interpretation effort showed that the opposite strategy was better at this site and for our data conditions; i.e., it was better to filter seismic images so that they contained only the lowest octave of frequencies in the seismic spectrum.

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