Complex overburdens often distort reservoir images in terms of structural positioning, stratigraphic resolution, and amplitude fidelity. One prime example of a complex overburden is in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, where thick and irregular layers of remobilized (i.e., allochthonous) salt are situated above prospective reservoir intervals. The highly variant salt layers create large lateral velocity variations that distort wave propagation and the illumination of deeper reservoir targets. In subsalt imaging, tools such as reflection tomography, full-waveform inversion, and detailed salt interpretation are needed to derive a high-resolution velocity model that captures the lateral velocity variations. Once a velocity field is obtained, reverse time migration (RTM) can be applied to restore structural positioning of events below and around the salt. However, RTM by nature is unable to fully recover the reflectivity for desired amplitudes and resolution. This shortcoming is well-recognized by the imaging community, and it has propelled the emergence of least-squares RTM (LSRTM) in recent years. We have investigated how current LSRTM methods perform on subsalt images. First, we compared the formulation of data-domain versus image-domain least-squares migration, as well as methods using single-iteration approximation versus iterative inversion. Then, we examined the resulting subsalt images of several LSRTM methods applied on the synthetic and field data. Among our tests, we found that image-domain single-iteration LSRTM methods, including an extension of an approximate inverse Hessian method in the curvelet domain, not only compensated for amplitude loss due to poor illumination caused by complex salt bodies, but it also produced subsalt images with fewer migration artifacts in the field data. In contrast, an iterative inversion method showed its potential for broadening the bandwidth in the subsalt, but it was less effective in reducing migration artifacts and noise. Based on our understanding, we evaluated the current state of LSRTM for subsalt imaging.

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