Seismic imaging in foothills areas is challenging because of the complexity of the near-surface and subsurface structures. Single seismic surveys often are not adequate in a foothill-exploration area, and multiple phases with different acquisition designs within the same block are required over time to get desired sampling in space and azimuths for optimizing noise attenuation, velocity estimation, and migration. This is partly because of economic concerns, and it is partly because technology is progressing over time, creating the need for unified criteria in processing workflows and parameters at different blocks in a study area. Each block is defined as a function of not only location but also the acquisition and processing phase. An innovative idea for complex foothills seismic imaging is presented to solve a matrix of blocks and tasks. For each task, such as near-surface velocity estimation and static corrections, signal processing, prestack time migration, velocity-model building, and prestack depth migration, one or two best service companies are selected to work on all blocks. We have implemented streamlined processing efficiently so that Task-1 to Task-n progressed with good coordination. Application of this innovative approach to a mega-project containing 16 3D surveys covering more than 9000  km2 in the Kelasu foothills, northwestern China, has demonstrated that this innovative approach is a current best practice in complex foothills imaging. To date, this is the largest foothills imaging project in the world. The case study in Kelasu successfully has delivered near-surface velocity models using first arrivals picked up to 3500 m offset for static corrections and 9000 m offset for prestack depth migration from topography. Most importantly, the present megaproject is a merge of several 3D surveys, with the merge performed in a coordinated, systematic fashion in contrast to most land megaprojects. The benefits of this approach and the strategies used in processing data from the various subsurveys are significant. The main achievement from the case study is that the depth images, after the application of the near-surface velocity model estimated from the megasurveys, are more continuous and geologically plausible, leading to more accurate seismic interpretation.

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