It has been recognized that stress perturbations in sediments induced by salt bodies can cause elastic-wave velocity (seismic velocity) changes and seismic anisotropy through changing their elastic parameters, thus leading to difficulties in salt imaging. To investigate seismic velocity changes and seismic anisotropy by near-salt stress perturbations and their impacts on salt imaging, taking the Kuqa depression as an example, we have applied a 2D plane-strain static geomechanical finite-element model to simulate stress perturbations and calculate the associated seismic velocity changes and seismic anisotropy; then we used the reverse time migration and imaging method to image the salt structure by excluding and including the stress-induced seismic velocity changes. Our model results indicate that near-salt stresses are largely perturbed due to salt stress relaxation, and the stress perturbations lead to significant changes of the seismic velocities and seismic anisotropy near the salt structure: The maximum seismic velocity changes can reach approximately 20% and the maximum seismic anisotropy can reach approximately 10%. The significant changes of seismic velocities due to stress perturbations largely impact salt imaging: The salt imaging is unclear, distorted, or even failed if we exclude near-salt seismic velocity changes from the preliminary velocity structure, but the salt can be better imaged if the preliminary velocity structure is modified by near-salt seismic velocity changes. We find that the locations where salt imaging tends to fail usually occur where large seismic velocity changes happen, and these locations are clearly related to the geometric characteristics of salt bodies. To accurately image the salt, people need to integrate results of geomechanical models and stress-induced seismic velocity changes into the imaging approach. The results provide petroleum geologists with scientific insights into the link between near-salt stress perturbations and their induced seismic velocity changes and help exploration geophysicists build better seismic velocity models in salt basins and image salt accurately.

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