Marine seismic vibrators are generally considered to be less intrusive than airguns from an environmental perspective. This is because they emit their energy spread out in time, rather than in a single, high intensity pulse.
There are also significant geophysical benefits associated with marine vibrators, and they stem from the ability to specify in detail the output acoustic waveform. The phase can be specified independently at each frequency. Such detailed control cannot be achieved with conventional airgun sources, where the phase can only be modified by the use of simple overall time delays.
The vibrator phase can be employed in several different ways: it can be applied to the overall source phase in a sequence so that it varies from one source point to the next; it can be applied to the individual vibrators within the source array so the source directivity is changed; it can be applied to the overall source phase of each source in a simultaneous source acquisition.
Carefully designed phase‐sequences can attenuate the residual source noise, and this in turn allows extra source points to be interleaved between the conventional ones. For these extra source points, the relative phase of the vibrators within the array can be chosen to create a transverse gradient source, which illuminates the earth predominantly in directions out of the plane of the sail line without left/right ambiguity.
If seismic vibrator data are acquired using interleaved conventional and transverse gradient sweeps, more information is collected per kilometre of vessel travel than is the case in conventional acquisition. This richer data acquisition leads to the possibility of acquiring all the necessary seismic data in a shorter time. Three‐dimensional reconstruction techniques are used to recover the same image quality that would have been obtained using the conventional, more time‐consuming acquisition.
For a marine vibrator to be suitable for these techniques it must, in general terms, have ‘high fidelity’. The precise device specifications are defined through realistic end‐to‐end simulations of the physical systems and of the processing. The specifications are somewhat more onerous than for a conventional vibrator, but they are achievable. A prototype vibrator that satisfies these requirements has been built.
In a simulated case study of a three‐dimensional deep‐water ocean bottom node survey, the seismic data could have been acquired using marine vibrators in one third of the time that it would have taken using airguns.
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