The advantages of 3D seismic data over conventional 2D geophysical data include: high-density data coverage, improved spatial delimitation of geologic and stratigraphic features, and the ability to visualize geologic, stratigraphic, and structural features in ways not possible with 2D seismic profiles. The widespread availability of 3D exploration seismic data has ushered in a new approach to deepwater hazards and site assessments as well as regional development studies. With the advent of high-powered desktop computers, new software packages, and advanced analysis techniques, these data are now being used for more than the exploration of hydrocarbons, particularly in water depths greater than about 200 m.

Exploration 3D data are routinely used to identify and avoid unfavorable drillsites and pipeline routes, thus reducing overall costs. Whereas exploration 3D seismic data generally have sufficient resolution to identify significant drilling hazards and for preliminary pipeline route planning, these data are not adequate for final structure, site or pipeline route selection or for detailed stratigraphic characterization needed for design. In these cases, high-resolution site- and route-specific surveys are still required.

The advantages of 3D data are now also available in high-resolution geophysical surveys. These data reduce the need for repeated surveying of the same area and provide details unseen on conventional exploration data. A single high-resolution 3D data set can be used for multiple applications throughout the exploration, production, and development process. These data are used for shallow and intermediate exploration, analyses of seabed topography, geohazards assessments, understanding of complex structural and stratigraphic conditions, well planning, and field development. When integrated with geotechnical soil boring data, high-resolution 3D data provide a detailed understanding of stratigraphic variability necessary for final structure siting and design.

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