Are Future Advances in Seismic Imaging Going to Be Incremental from Here on Out?

Rapid advances in computing power have brought us to the point where essentially all "classical" methods of imaging the subsurface of the Earth with sounds waves are feasible and even practical. Coupled with new techniques in acquiring seismic reflection data, these algorithms are creating high-quality images of subsurface structures for hydrocarbon exploration and production. I'll show a few examples of complex imaging projects where our "classical" methods recent advances are working well. Given those successes, it is worth asking the question: Are we really at the end game, where all remaining advances will be incremental and we merely surf the wave of increasing computer power using known methods? I think not, as there are still geological structures that do not yield useful seismic reflection images, and many other situations where the quality of those images is insufficient in fundamental ways. I'll discuss what I see as some of the most difficult remaining problems in reflection seismology and how we might approach solving those problems.

John Etgen, British Petroleum

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