Automating seismic data analysis and interpretation

2020 1Q/2Q Distinguished Lecturer

Sergey Fomel

University of Texas
Austin, Texas, USA


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SEG Distinguished Lecturers
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formerly Statoil


Recent developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning can automate different tasks in data analysis. I will discuss the quest for automation by tracking the development of automatic picking algorithms, from velocity picking in seismic processing to horizon picking in seismic interpretation. We will search for the limits of automation to discover the distinguishing qualities that separate human geophysicists from machines.

The automatic picking algorithm follows the analogy between picking trajectories in images with variable intensities and tracking seismic rays in the subsurface with variable velocities. Picking trajectories from local similarity panels generated from time shifts provides an effective means for measuring local shifts between images, with practical applications in time-lapse and multicomponent image registration, matching seismic with well logs, and data compression using the seislet transform. In seismic interpretation, automatic picking finds additional application for tracking fault surfaces, salt boundaries, and other geologic features.

The power of automatic picking is further enhanced by novel deep learning algorithms. The deep learning approach can use a convolutional neural network trained on synthetically generated images to detect geologic features in real images with an unmatched level of performance in both efficiency and accuracy. The lessons to learn from these developments include not only the potential for automation, harvested through artificial neural networks and modern computing resources, but also the potential for human ingenuity, harvested through professional networks.

Fomel Diagram

Figure from X. Wu, S. Fomel, and M. Hudec, 2018, Fast salt boundary interpretation with optimal path picking: Geophysics, v. 83, O45–O53.




Sergey Fomel is Wallace E. Pratt Professor of Geophysics at The University of Texas at Austin and the director of the Texas Consortium for Computational Seismology (TCCS). At UT Austin, he is affiliated with the Bureau of Economic Geology, the Department of Geological Sciences, and the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences. Sergey received a PhD in geophysics from Stanford University in 2001. For his contributions to exploration geophysics, he has been recognized with a number of professional awards, including SEG’s J. Clarence Karcher Award in 2001 and the EAGE Conrad Schlumberger Award in 2011. He has served SEG in different roles, most recently as the Vice President, Publications. Sergey also serves as the project manager for "Madagascar," an open-source software project for geophysical data analysis.


Check back soon for schedule updates.

Date Location Host
15 Jan College Station, Texas, USA Texas A&M Geophysical Society
21 Jan Edmonton, AB, Canada Univ of Alberta SEG Student Chapter
22 Jan Calgary, AB, Canada CSEG
22 Jan Calgary, AB, Canada SEGA (SEG/EAGE/CSEG) University of Calgary
31 Jan Austin, Texas University of Texas at Austin - Texas Geophysical Society (TGS)
3 Feb Stanford, California, USA Stanford University SEG Student Chapter
4 Feb Fresno, California, USA California State University, Fresno
5 Feb Bakersfield, California, USA Pacific Coast Section - SEG
6 Feb Ensenada, Mexico Ensenada Center For Scientific Research & Higher Ed. SEG
10 Feb Kingsville, Texas, USA Texas A&M University-Kingsville Geophysical Society
11 Feb Corpus Christi, Texas Coastal Bend Geophysical Society
12 Feb San Antonio, Texas San Antonio Geophysical Society
18 Feb Houston, Texas, USA Geophysical Society of Houston, Westside
19 Feb Houston, Texas, USA Geophysical Society of Houston, Downtown
19 Feb Houston, Texas, USA SEG Wavelets at University of Houston
20 Feb Houston, Texas, USA Geophysical Society of Houston, Northside
3 Mar Villahermosa, Mexico Universidad Juarez Autonoma de Tabasco SEG Student Chapter
3 Mar Villahermosa, Mexico Asociacion Mexicana de Geofisicos de Exploracion (AMGE)
5 Mar Mexico City, Mexico Mexico Instituto Politecnico Nacional
6 Mar Mexico City, Mexico Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México Geophysical Society
17 Mar Cambridge, Massachusettes, USA Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Geophysical Society
29 Mar Beijing, China TBD
30 Mar Beijing, China TBD
31 Mar Beijing, China TBD
1 Apr Zhou Zhou, China BGP
2 Apr Nanjing, China SEG South China Section
3 Apr Hefei, China Univ of Sci & Tech of China
6 Apr Hanoi, Viet Nam Geoscientists in Hanoi
7 Apr Bangkok, Thailand PTTEP
8 Apr Singapore Natl Univ of Singapore
9 Apr Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Petronas
13 Apr Honolulu, Hawaii, USA University of Hawaii Geophysical Society
5 May Dallas, Texas, USA Dallas Geophysical Society
5 May Dallas, Texas, USA University of Texas at Dallas Geophysical Society
6 May Midland, Texas, USA Permian Basin Geophysical Society
7 May New Orleans, Louisiana, USA Southeastern Geophysical Society

Please contact Host Sections for lecture locations and times.

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