Fracture characterization at Valhall: Application of P-wave amplitude variation with offset and azimuth (AVOA) analysis to a 3D ocean-bottom data set

Stephen A. Hall, J. Michael Kendall

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The delineation and characterization of fracturing is important in the successful exploitation of many hydrocarbon reservoirs. Such fracturing often occurs in preferentially aligned sets; if the fractures are of subseismic scale, this may result in seismic anisotropy. Thus, measurements of anisotropy from seismic data may be used to delineate fracture patterns and investigate their properties. Here fracture-induced anisotropy is investigated in the Valhall field, which lies in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea. This field is a chalk reservoir with good porosity but variable permeability, where fractures may significantly impact production, e.g., during waterflooding. To investigate the nature of fracturing in this reservoir, P-wave amplitude variation with offset and azimuth (AVOA) is analyzed in a 3D ocean-bottom cable (OBC) data set. In general, 3D ocean-bottom seismic (OBS) acquisition leads to patchy coverage in offset and azimuth, and this must be addressed when considering such data. To overcome this challenge and others associated with 3D OBS acquisition, a new method for processing and analysis is presented. For example, a surface fitting approach, which involves analyzing azimuthal variations in AVO gradients, is used to estimate the orientation and magnitude of the fracture-induced anisotropy. This approach is also more widely applicable to offset-azimuth analysis of other attributes (e.g., traveltimes) and any data set where there has been true 3D data acquisition, land or marine. Using this new methodology, we derive high-resolution maps of P-wave anisotropy from the AVOA analysis for the top-chalk reflection at Valhall. These anisotropy maps show coherent but laterally varying trends. Synthetic AVOA modeling, using effective medium models, indicates that if this anisotropy is from aligned fracturing, the fractures are likely liquid filled with small aspect ratios and the fracture density must be high. Furthermore, we show that the fracture-normal direction is parallel to the direction of most positive AVO gradient. In other situations the reverse can be true, i.e., the fracture-normal direction can be parallel to the direction of the most negative AVO gradient. Effective medium modeling or comparisons with anisotropy estimates from other approaches (e.g., azimuthal variations in velocity) must therefore be used to resolve this ambiguity. The inferred fracture orientations and anisotropy magnitudes show a degree of correlation with the positions and alignments of larger scale faults, which are estimated from 3D coherency analysis. Overall, this work demonstrates that significant insight may be gained into the alignment and character of fracturing and the stress field variations throughout a field using this high-resolution AVOA method.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1150-1160
    Number of pages11
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2003


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