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Depth Conversion Methods and Pitfalls

Certificate Icon Certificate: No

Duration Icon Duration: Five days

Language Icon Language: English

Location Icon Location: Worldwide

Practical, hands-on course for practicing seismic interpreters who are tasked with creating depth maps and estimating uncertainty for volumetrics and well planning. Time is split equally between academic theory and practical exercise.


This is a course for practising seismic interpreters tasked with creating depth maps and estimating uncertainty for volumetrics and well planning. Time is split equally between teaching and exercises which are designed to illuminate concepts and cement understanding through hands-on application. The course incidentally provides attendees with insights into seismic imaging, tips on mapping & interpretation, and several efficiency-enhancing spreadsheets to take away.

Learning Outcomes

Attendees will learn to

  • Understand the geological factors influencing velocity and be familiar with sources of velocity data
  • Interrogate velocity data to determine best approach to depth conversion
  • Construct geologically reasonable velocity models and depth convert using well data derived velocities or calibrated seismic velocities
  • Create depth maps using appropriate well tie techniques
  • Adapt velocity function techniques (Vok) when geological factors (water depth, uplift etc) lead them to produce incorrect results
  • Recognise when seismic imaging limitations mean that vertical stretch depth conversion is inappropriate and seismic velocities are compromised
  • QC PSDM velocities and determine whether PSDM interpretation in depth is valid
  • Determine the sensitivity of depth structure to velocity models and well tying
  • Quantify depth uncertainty and understand its origins

Course content


  • Understand the relevance of depth conversion in the era of Pre Stack Depth Migration
  • Appreciate the impact of overburden velocity on reservoir depth structure

Geological factors influencing velocity

  • Learn the intrinsic properties of rocks which influence their velocity and anisotropy
  • Understand how diagenesis, overpressure and fluid fill modify these properties

Sources of velocity data and their problems

  • Know the different sources of data providing a measure of velocity
  • Understand the limitations of these data and know checks to help ensure data integrity
  • Be aware of seismic velocity origins and velocity terminology

Synthetic seismograms and time-depth relationships

  • Understand how interpretation systems use time-depth data and how this influences calculated velocities
  • Learn how to optimally calibrate logs and tie synthetic seismograms for use in depth conversion – to stretch/squeeze or not?

Analysing velocity data

  • Appreciate the importance of looking at all of the data, including logs and seismic velocities
  • Learn data analysis techniques to determine the best approach to velocity modelling and depth conversion
  • Understand the importance of scale in displaying quantitative data, and learn tips to do it right

Velocity model building methods

  • Understand when one layer models (e.g. t-d polynomials, Vavg maps) can and can’t be used
  • Appreciate the benefits of layering even with simple velocity models
  • Know how to implement common velocity models, including linear velocity functions (‘Vok’)
  • Learn techniques to calibrate and condition seismic velocity
  • Reveal the hidden limitations of less standard velocity models (isochron-isochore etc)

The process of depth conversion

  • Be aware of generic workflows for depth conversion
  • Take away velocity analysis check-lists and good depth conversion model recording protocols

Tying to wells

  • Learn strategies for tying maps to wells, and when not to use restricted radius tying
  • Understand why tying in-depth, velocity or time domains is different, and how to choose
  • Appreciate the implications and value of mapping Vo, learn how to do it, and when not to
  • Know when it is best not to tie

Dealing with geophysical pitfalls

  • Understand the basics of time migration and statics
  • Be aware of the reasons why the seismic image is not a vertical scaled version of the real earth
  • Understand the impact of channels and other shallow anomalies on seismic reflection times and how they limit the accuracy of seismic velocities
  • Be aware that imaging limitations can cause problems with layered depth conversion models

Depth domain seismic

  • Be aware of the benefits and limitations of tomographic velocity inversion
  • Understand how anisotropy is used in PSDM
  • Learn to evaluate the quality of PSDM velocity models and so believability of PSDM depths
  • Adapt good depth conversion practice to tie depth domain seismic horizon to wells

Quality control: tips and techniques

  • Learn techniques to QC the velocity model through ‘time conversion’
  • Be aware of quick and effective techniques for QC’ing others’ work

Quantifying uncertainty

  • Understand the sources of depth error in the time and velocity domains and the concept of systematic and random errors
  • Learn techniques to analyse errors and to quantify them

Dealing with geological pitfalls

  • Understand that, even when properly implemented, there are times when linear velocity modelling methods will not work (in the presence of uplift, hydrocarbons, deep seafloor channels etc)
  • Learn solutions or workarounds for when the recommended techniques need modification

Interested? Book this course today

Who Should Attend?

A basic understanding of geology, structural interpretation and the seismic method is required. Experience in mapping and seismic interpretation will be a significant advantage.

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How to Book

The Depth Conversion methods & Pitfalls course is available through the RPS Group training organisation. Members of their Nautilus Training Alliance (NTA) should contact RPS directly in order to book places or to arrange in-house training.

Oil companies, service companies who are not members of RPS’ NTA but who are interested in running the course should contact Alan Atkinson, the course creator and presenter, at Rockflow to enquire about in-house courses. Individuals may also contact Rockflow to enquire about possibilities for participating in a course.

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“The instructor is amazingly hard working. Very well thought out and dedicated to efficient teaching. Nice!”

Noble Geophysicist

(1-year experience)

“I think this may be the best Nautilus classroom course I have had. The instructor manual and exercises were great”

Marathon Oil Senior Geophysicist

(26 years experience)

“Depth conversion is a tough area to produce a course for…Alan has produced a course which strikes an excellent balance between the theoretical and practical”

BG Interpreter

(17 years experience)

“Alan Atkinson has that rare skill to turn complex concepts into (almost) obvious matters”

GDF Suez Geophysicist

(6 years experience)

“A really great course. I’ve learned a lot of new stuff that is very practical and applicable in my job”

Wintershall Geologist

(1 year experience)

“I have been highly impressed by Alan’s course. Not only is Alan a superb teacher but he has put in in an enormous mountain of effort in building the spreadsheets which are keys to understanding in this subject area”

Tullow Lead Geoscientist

(14 years experience)

“Where Alan’s course stands out is his emphasis on making the depth conversion defendable; namely choosing the right way to represent your geology whilst not building in unnecessary complications”

Conoco Phillips


“Provides a comprehensive overview of depth conversion methodology, clearly delivered and progressively consolidated throughout progress of the course”

Origin Geophysicist

(25 years experience)

Alan Atkinson

Geoscience Director

About the Instructor

Alan has over thirty five years of exploration, field development, and production geoscience experience with operators in West Africa, South Asia and the North Sea.

Specialising in the application of high end geophysics to structural and stratigraphic seismic interpretation, his areas of expertise are reservoir characterisation (using pre-stack inversion, AVO analysis) and velocity modelling (pre-stack depth migration and depth conversion).

He started his career working the North Sea with Phillips Petroleum and Amerada Hess in London, and subsequently moved to CNR International, working Angola and Côte d’Ivoire. He then moved to Cairn Energy, living and working in India, and becoming Chief Geophysicist during their successful Rajasthan campaign. Here, he supervised several significant seismic acquisition and processing programmes, and managed a geophysical studies team undertaking, amongst other projects, AVO modelling work and pioneering 4D studies on India’s largest onshore fields. He is now a partner in Rockflow Resources Ltd, a specialist technical and management consultancy serving the international petroleum industry, primarily advising on reserve evaluations for a variety of clients worldwide and providing services as an Expert Witness in oil and gas disputes. He is also an honorary lecturer at Imperial College London.

Alan devised the ‘Depth Conversion Methods & Pitfalls’ course in 2009 and ‘Depth Conversion Methods & Petrel Workflows’ two years later. The courses have been delivered around 60 times to audiences across the world. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society, and an active member of SEG, EAGE and PESGB.

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