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3d Seismic Technology: Its Uses, Limits, & Legal Ramifications

Owen L. Anderson, Dr. John D. Pigott, Proceedings of 42nd Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1996)

During the past twenty-five years, the 3D (three dimensional) seismic method has revolutionized the petroleum industry, in the way the industry conducts seismic exploration and exploitation, and in the way it thinks. At present, geophysicists who use 3D seismic technologies, together with geologists and engineers, are necessary components of the petroleum team.2 In fact, in most cases today, it would be unthinkable to exclude geophysicists. However, the integration of geophysics with these other disciplines is a relatively recent development. Historically, there has been a lack of appreciation for seismic techniques due to: (1) the inherent interpretational ambiguity of the interpolative forerunner 2D (two-dimensional) seismic analyses; (2) the costly mistakes in interpretations as a result of having to make interpolations; and (3) the early lack of suitable computers to conduct the enormous amount of number [16-5] crunching required to clearly and accurately image the subsurface in three dimensions. All of this changed in the 1970s, first with the theoretical 3D seismic studies in the first part of the decade,3 and then with the parallel development of more massive mainframe computers in the second half of the decade, which led to the 3D seismic method's practical deployment.4 With improved global positioning technology in the 1980s, the use of 3D seismic technology expanded