Velocity model building is one of the most difficult aspects of the seismic processing sequence. But it is also one of the most important: an accurate earth model allows an accurate migrated image to be formed, which allows the geologist a better chance at an accurate interpretation of the area. In addition, the velocity model itself can provide complementary information about the geology and geophysics of the region. Full-waveform inversion (FWI) is a popular, high-end velocity model-building tool that can generate high-resolution earth models, especially in regions of the model probed by the transmitted (diving wave) arrivals on the recorded seismic data. The history of the South Gabon Basin is complex, leading to a rich geologic picture today and a very challenging velocity model-building process. We have developed a case study from the offshore Gabon area showing that FWI is able to help with the model-building process, and the resulting velocity model reveals features that improve the migrated image. The application of FWI is made on an extremely large area covering approximately 25,000 km2, demonstrating that FWI can be applied to this magnitude of survey in a timely manner. In addition, the detail in the FWI velocity model aids the geologic interpretation by highlighting, among other things, the location of shallow gas pockets, buried channels, and carbonate rafts. The concept of actively using the FWI-derived velocity model to aid the interpretation in areas of complex geology, and/or to identify potential geohazards to avoid in an exploration context, is applicable to many parts of the world.

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