N255 An Integrated Approach to 3D Seismic Interpretation

Course Facts

Course Code:
4 days
3.2 Continuing Education Units
32 Professional Development Hours
Certificate Issued Upon Completion


This course examines in detail the practice of 3D seismic interpretation with the objective of improving the skills and productivity of subsurface professionals. It advocates an integrated approach and work plans tailored to meet project objectives. The workflow involves understanding the available data, defining subsurface geometries, inferring geological meaning, hydrocarbon presence and volumes and communicating results, including risk and uncertainty. 

Duration and Training Method

A four-day classroom course comprising a mixture of lectures, case studies and classroom exercises.

Participants will learn to:

  1. Select different workflows and techniques to suit the objectives of the interpretation project.
  2. Assemble and integrate multi-cube datasets (offset/angle stacks, AVO attributes, inversion, coherence etc).
  3. Assess the quality of 3D datasets and have strategies for mitigating problematic data.
  4. Arrange, condition and display data in an optimal fashion to achieve their objectives efficiently.
  5. Evaluate seismic anomalies and understand their significance.
  6. Design appropriate interpretation strategies to bring out the geology from the seismic volume and relate it to well control and basin setting.
  7. Perform 3D visualisation to decrease interpretation time and increase geological understanding.
  8. Formulate and conduct “best practice” in seismic interpretation methods.

Seismic interpretation is the process of integrating subsurface data and geologic knowledge to produce a suite of technical products and presentation materials that addresses specific objectives and informs specific decisions. This may involve developing a regional or basin-scale understanding of petroleum systems and play fairways, identifying specific leads and prospects, defining drilling locations for exploration, appraisal or development wells, estimating risk and calculating reserves.

While each project workflow must be unique and fit-for-purpose and often involves multiple iterations and refinements, the process can be broken down into a series of generic steps:

  1. Assemble and understand the available data
  2. Define subsurface geometries
  3. Infer structure and stratigraphy (i.e. the geological context and meaning)
  4. Assess and calculate potential hydrocarbon presence and volumes
  5. Quantify risk and uncertainty
  6. Communicate results to subsurface team and decision makers

Each step in this process may involve specialists, such as seismic processors, rock physicists, petrophysicists and sequence stratigraphers. However, it is typically the job of the interpreter to understand and incorporate the results of specialists, to drive the entire process towards coherent conclusions and to communicate the results and uncertainty effectively.

The step-wise approach and its iteration. Defining objectives. Workflows to achieve objectives quickly and efficiently. Thinking creatively.

Seismic data volumes
Theory and definition of stack volumes and attributes in use in the industry. Angle-stacks, coherence, AVO attributes, AI and EI inversion. Time domain vs depth domain. Recognising and understanding the differences and value of each of these. How to load and use multiple volumes most effectively. Frequency, phase and time shifts. Use of gathers.

Project objectives. Understanding client, manager and/or partner objectives. Appropriate pick density. When to pick and when to grid. Good work-habits: rigorous and meaningful naming conventions, capturing and recording work in real time.  Making maps suitable for your audience.  Use of 3D displays. Depth conversion procedures, quality control and error quantification.

Seismic “noise”
Acquisition noise: the acquisition footprint, sources of processing noise. Geological “noise”:  multiples, including water bottom multiples, the effects of shallow channels and seabed variability on amplitude and depth conversion. Gas effects, fault shadows, velocity push down and pull-up.

Recognising anomalies
Recognition and classification of seismic anomalies. Recognition and interpretation of phase changes. Developing and carrying alternative models. Techniques for highlighting models.  Pitfalls: surface/shallow effects, focusing, anisotropy, facies variation, high and low angle faulting.  Techniques for identifying anomalies quickly.  Physics-based risking.

Recognising geology
Interval maps; isopachs and amplitudes. Defining pinchouts. Recognising and mapping sedimentary features. Chronostratigraphy vs. lithostratigraphy. Differential compaction. The art of the well tie. Resolution, detection and tuning.

Data and interpretation display
Frequency analysis, filtering and noise reduction techniques. Colour bars suited to various seismic attributes (instantaneous amplitude, average energy etc). Scales and scaling. Contouring. Voxel picking techniques. Review of specialist software. Slicing datasets. Opacity displays. Surface drape. Shaded relief.

Who should attend

Practicing geoscientists and experienced subsurface professionals from other disciplines who wish to improve their seismic interpretation skills and productivity.

Prerequisites and linking courses

N085 (Introduction to Seismic Interpretation) covers the fundamentals of seismic interpretation including paper-based exercises on 2D data and project management issues and is recommended as a precursor for geoscientists with little or no experience of interpretation methods.  For those with minimal knowledge of the seismic method, N080 (Geophysics for Subsurface Professionals) is recommended as a precursor, having been designed originally as cross-training for petroleum and reservoir engineers. Other seismic interpretation courses of benefit to early to mid-career geoscientists include N254 (A Practical Introduction to the Geological Interpretation of 3D Seismic Data) and N040 (Interpretation of 3D Seismic Data). For further details regarding these courses and details of all available Geophysics and Seismic Interpretation courses, please consult the Nautilus Traiming Alliance website.


Course was interactive with good exercises.