Informing decision-making and training in subsurface industries


Description of impact

Seismic data are used globally by energy companies, and other subsurface industries, to explore for, develop and produce hydrocarbons, mine resources and store waste. These activities are costly and interpretation of seismic data underpins the decision-making processes. Aberdeen’s Interpretation Uncertainty Group’s research has enabled companies to generate improved interpretations of seismic datasets. Improved assessment of uncertainties ultimately leads to considerable cost-saving and mitigation against harmful environmental and economic outcomes.

The companies have utilised the research to run training course for employees, as do recognised training consultants, leading to refined geological interpretation workflows and enhanced decision-making regarding subsurface uncertainties.


Unsuccessful exploration based on seismic interpretation can cost a energy company USD5,000,000 to USD20,000,000 per exploration site, this added to the cost of acquisition and processing of seismic data (c. USD25,000 per km2 [S1]) can incur substantial losses for the industry. Interpretation of seismic image data is not straightforward and interpretations are subject to considerable uncertainty, meaning that geological interpretations of seismic image data cannot be validated prior to exploratory drilling. This has significant cost implications due to the expense associated with drilling wells.

Seismic interpretations are sensitive to both human factors (e.g. data processing decisions, interpretation bias) and non-human factors (e.g. rock velocities). Interpretational uncertainty relating to subsurface projects may significantly impact the economic viability and the expected integrity of exploratory drilling campaigns and the viability of hazardous waste storage sites, therefore there is considerable interest in new methods to increase certainty. Full consideration of the risks with misinterpretation in geological interpretation of seismic data (including management strategies and potential impacts) is thus critical to mitigate against negative environmental, economic and societal outcomes.
Impact statusImpact Completed (Open)
Impact date20132021


  • Technological