Seismic survey design

Ensuring that a seismic survey is fully optimized is imperative for the success of any exploration or development project. Our survey design strategy takes a pragmatic approach and combines both geophysical and logistical considerations with innovation and integrated thinking. In this way, the optimum survey is designed at the beginning of any exploration or development project, balancing cost and quality. RPS has delivered seismic survey design services for over 30 years and has a deep level of expertise in 2D, 3D, 4D, land, marine, ocean bottom, TZ and borehole seismic (Vertical Seismic Profiling or VSPs) projects worldwide.


Seismic survey design services include:

  • Survey evaluation and design
  • Seismic design services
  • Seismic feasibility studies
  • Seismic illumination studies
  • Survey planning
  • Seismic modelling
  • Seismic (re)-processing studies

Survey evaluation and design (SED)


  • Land, Marine, OBS, TZ, 4D, Borehole Seismic (VSPs)
  • Illumination studies
  • Synthetic modelling (1D, 2D and 3D) Ray tracing, acoustic, elastic and visco-elastic
  • Comprehensive vintage seismic review and analysis
  • Quick and independent evaluation of existing design

Comprehensive SEDs are not necessarily required for all exploration 2D/3D Surveys. Sometimes a simple 2D/3D layout is all that is called for.

However, RPS recommends that explorationists consider performing SEDs for all 2D/3D seismic programs where at least one principal objective is to characterize the target reservoir.

Comprehensive SEDs are important for any Reservoir Development Program that may involve the following interpretation analyses:

  • Detailed structural and stratigraphic mapping
  • Pre-stack analyses such as AVO or pre-stack inversion to calibrate/predict pore fluids and detect fractures
  • Post-stack Inversion and Attribute Analyses

Especially recommended for high effort 3D, 3D3C, and 4D Seismic Surveys and Borehole Seismic Surveys (VSPs).


  • Clarification of geophysical and geological objectives.
  • Clarification of the geophysical risks to seismic imaging.
  • Characterization of the seismic signal & seismic noise.
  • Independent analysis and recommendations
    • e.g. Is the existing 2D or 3D seismic data fit for purpose?
  • Optimal 3D design and corresponding processing strategy.
  • Compromise 3D designs and processing flows based on real world limitations in
    • Equipment
    • Survey logistics
    • Budget
  • The quality, costs and the value of information can provide management with an invaluable tool for comparing the cost effectiveness of different 3D Acquisition and Processing scenarios.

Seismic illumination studies

Illumination studies are routinely used to analyse the effect of different survey layouts and for feasibilities studies to help understand the impact of the survey geometry on final seismic quality.

RPS combines global illumination using 3D Ray tracing integrated with target-oriented binning.

This type of illumination generates complementary but distinct attributes:

  • The density of seismic energy reflected from a target interface most commonly referred to as hit count
  • The uniformity of source-receiver offset and azimuth distributions
  • The reflection or incident angle distribution
  • CMP-CRP horizontal distance – this provides a direct estimate of migration aperture

This analysis is often combined with more local illumination methods which provide specific information around selected points within the subsurface.


Contact us


Chris Rudling

Principal Geophysicist - Team Leader T: +44 (0) 1483 746 500 Email
View profile »
Woking | UK

Chris Helly

Operations Geophysicist T: +1 403-543-5360 Email
Calgary | Canada

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