3D seismic interpretation is a form of seismic interpretation which relies on the use of 3D surveys which provide visualizations of structures in three dimensions. People often use specialized software for this task, as the process requires a lot of math and the careful construction and interpretation of data. There are a number of applications for this process, including the examination of sites to determine whether or not they would make viable oilfields, exploration of the ocean floor, and general geological study.
In seismic surveys, controlled explosions are generated and the reflections of these explosions are read to generate data about what is going on underground. With 3D seismic interpretation, this data is mapped on a three dimensional representation which allows people to explore the data in a number of different ways. Rather than visualizing a site in the form of a flat elevation map or cross section, 3D seismic interpretation allows people to manipulate the angle of view and to visualize a site as a whole. It can also provide information about the surrounding area which may not be readily apparent with other mapping techniques.
Seismic interpretation can get very complex. Geologists are interested in the fundamental structure of the Earth, and they are also interested in the components of the sites they are studying. Different types of rock reflect explosions differently, and 3D seismic interpretation is designed to reveal not only the presence of underground formations, but what is in those formations, and where the transitions between different types of materials are occurring.
Using this information, a geologist can play with scenarios. Modeling scenarios on a map allows geologists to explore the possible results of various activities. For example, a geologist may be concerned that oilfield exploration could cause the collapse of a delicate formation, potentially putting people or the environment in danger. They may also believe that formations present on site hold a limited amount of useful resources, making investment in the site potentially unprofitable.
Seismic data from current and past surveys can both be loaded into seismic software which is used in 3D seismic interpretation. Many programs offer a range of options, some of which are tailored to specific applications such as oilfield geology. Using such programs effectively can be complex enough that many companies offer classes which teach people how to utilize their software while providing some general information about ongoing trends in this field.