A review and analysis of errors in post‐stack time‐shift interpretation

Colin MacBeth*, Saeed Izadian

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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This study complements two earlier papers on the interpretation and estimation of post‐stack time‐shifts that detail the most popular measurement methods to date. In this current work, the focus is on describing the magnitude and identifying the origin of the uncertainty present in these time‐shift values. We also consider how the underlying assumptions behind conventional time‐shift estimation methods can contribute to the inadequate resolution of the subsurface time‐lapse changes. The various errors fall into three broad categories: (1) those related to intrinsic data limits that cannot be avoided; (2) those associated with seismic measurement methods that can be corrected with some effort; and finally (3) those that arise due to approximations to the wave physics made during the design or implementation of the methods. In the first category are limitations due to sampling rate and signal‐to‐noise ratio, and wavelet interferences resulting from the narrow band nature of the seismic data and the heterogeneous nature of the geology itself. The effects produce errors of typically a fraction of a millisecond, but exceptionally in 4D data with poor repeatability up to 1 ms. In the second category are acquisition and processing errors. These are usually of the order of a few milliseconds but can reach up to 10s of milliseconds and are, therefore, essential to correct. It is possible to correct the effects of tides and seawater variations in marine acquisition if these changes are monitored and measured. Navigation and timing are identified as issues to consider carefully. For land data, daily and seasonal near‐surface variations are still problematic, and source and sensors must be buried to deliver interpretable time‐shifts. The impact of choices made during processing can be significant but is specific to the workflow and dataset and thus cannot be generically assessed. However, the effects from residual multiples can be identified and treated. Of moderate importance is the third category of errors, which consists of four items. Of these, the effect of lateral image shifts and amplitude effects are judged to play a minor role. Deviation from the assumption of vertical ray‐paths during post‐stack analysis appears to be of concern only for reservoirs with noticeably dipping structures and strong contrasts. The effect of pre‐stack variations on the post‐stack measurements remains a topic to be more thoroughly examined, and the conclusion is unclear. Finally, it is apparent that uncertainties in all categories are strongly dependent on the field setting and geographical location.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1497-1522
Number of pages26
JournalGeophysical Prospecting
Issue number8
Early online date11 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


  • interpretation
  • time lapse
  • monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics


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