The importance of structural model availability on seismic interpretation

Juan Alcalde, Clare E. Bond, Gareth Johnson, Robert W. H. Butler, Mark A. Cooper, Jennifer F. Ellis

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38 Citations (Scopus)
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Interpretation of faults in seismic images is central to the creation of geological models of the subsurface. The use of prior knowledge acquired through learning allows interpreters to move from singular observations to reasoned interpretations based on the conceptual models available to them. The amount and variety of fault examples available in textbooks, articles and training exercises is therefore likely to be a determinant factor in the interpreters' ability to interpret realistic fault geometries in seismic data. We analysed the differences in fault type and geometry interpreted in seismic data by students before and after completing a masters module in structural geology, and compared them to the characteristics of faults represented in the module and textbooks. We propose that the observed over-representation of normal-planar faults in early teaching materials influences the interpretation of data, making this fault type and geometry dominant in the pre-module interpretations. However, when the students were exposed to a greater range in fault models in the module, the range of fault type and geometry increased. This work explores the role of model availability in interpretation and advocates for the use of realistic fault models in training materials.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-171
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Structural Geology
Early online date4 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017

Bibliographical note

The authors thank Graham Yielding and Douglas Paton for their kind and supportive comments on the paper. BP/GUPCO are acknowledged for providing data from the Gulf of Suez. The authors acknowledge the support of MVE and use of Move software 2015.2 for this work. Juan Alcalde is funded by NERC grant NE/M007251/1, on interpretational uncertainty. The work could not have been completed without the support of the students of Integrated Petroleum Geoscience Master of Science degree at the University of Aberdeen (United Kingdom) who took part in the interpretation experiment.


  • seismic interpretation
  • fault models
  • availability bias
  • prior knowledge
  • structural geology teaching


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