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Walter Kessinger: The SEG-Y Format

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The SEG-Y Format for Geophysical Data

Written by Ken Gaillot Jr. Last updated 10 June 1994 Based on Digital Tape Standards published by the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG)

SEG-Y

The SEG-Y format is one of several tape standards developed by the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG). It is the most common format used for seismic data in the exploration and production industry. However, it was created in 1973 and many different 'modernized' flavors exist.

SEG-Y was designed for storing a single line of seismic data on IBM 9-track tapes attached to IBM mainframe computers. Most of the variations in modern SEG-Y varieties result from trying to overcome these limitations.

Some of the features of SEG-Y which are outdated today include:

EBCDIC descriptive header (rather than the now-standard ASCII) IBM floating-point data (rather than the now-standard IEEE) single line storage (rather than the now-common 3D surveys)

The official standard SEG-Y consists of the following components:

a 3200-byte EBCDIC descriptive reel header record a 400-byte binary reel header record trace records consisting of a 240-byte binary trace header trace data

As mentioned earlier there are many variations of the standard.

The SEG-Y EBCDIC Reel Header

The EBCDIC reel header is equivalent to 40 IBM punch-cards (EBCDIC? punchcards? Welcome to the 70's, man!). The official layout of these 80-character cards is the EBCDIC equivalent of the following:

12345678901234567890123456789012345678901234567890123456789012345678901234567890

C

1 CLIENT

COMPANY

CREW NO

C

2 LINE

AREA

MAP ID

C

3 REEL NO

DAY-START OF REEL

YEAR

OBSERVER

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C

4 INSTRUMENT: MFG

MODEL

SERIAL NO

C

5 DATA TRACES/RECORD

AUXILIARY TRACES/RECORD

CDP FOLD

C

6 SAMPLE INTERVAL

SAMPLES/TRACE

BITS/IN

BYTES/SAMPLE

C

7 RECORDING FORMAT

FORMAT THIS REEL

MEASUREMENT SYSTEM

C

8 SAMPLE CODE: FLOATING PT

FIXED PT

FIXED PT-GAIN

CORRELATED

C

9 GAIN TYPE: FIXED

BINARY

FLOATING POINT

OTHER

C10 FILTERS: ALIAS

HZ NOTCH

HZ

BAND

-

HZ SLOPE

-

DB/OCT

C11 SOURCE: TYPE

NUMBER/POINT

POINT INTERVAL

 

C12

PATTERN:

LENGTH

 

C13 SWEEP: START

HZ END

HZ LENGTH

WIDTH MS CHANNEL NO

TYPE

 

MS

TYPE

C14 TAPER: START LENGTH C15 SPREAD: OFFSET

MS END LENGTH MAX DISTANCE

GROUP INTERVAL

 

C16 GEOPHONES: PER GROUP

SPACING

FREQUENCY

MFG

MODEL

C17

PATTERN:

LENGTH

WIDTH

C18 TRACES SORTED BY: RECORD

CDP

OTHER

C19 AMPLITUDE RECOVERY: NONE

SPHERICAL DIV

AGC

OTHER

C20 MAP PROJECTION

ZONE ID

COORDINATE UNITS

C21 PROCESSING:

C22 PROCESSING:

C23

C24

C25

C26

C27

C28

C29

C30

C31

C32

C33

C34

C35

C36

C37

C38

C39

C40 END EBCDIC

The blank spaces in the cards are fill-in-the-blanks. For example, the client's name is intended to go in the space after 'CLIENT' in the first card. Multiple-choice entries like 'SAMPLE CODE' in card 8 are intended to have the appropriate choice (such as 'FLOATING PT') marked with an 'X'.

Cards 21 through 40 are intended for general descriptions such as the data set's processing history.

The SEG-Y Binary Reel Header

The binary reel header contains much information about the data. Much of this information is optional, that is, the entire header is not required to be valid. In fact, none of it is required to be valid, although some fields are strongly recommended.

The 400 bytes contain 2-byte and 4-byte integers in the following layout:

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Bytes

 

Description

001

- 004

Job identification number.

005

- 008

* Line number.

 

009

- 012

* Reel number.

013

- 014

* Number of data traces per record.

015

- 016 * Number of auxiliary traces per record.

017

- 018 * Sample interval of this reel's data in microseconds.

019

- 020

Sample interval of original field recording in microseconds.

021

- 022

* Number of samples per trace for this reel's data.

023

- 024

Number of samples per trace in original field recording.

025

- 026

* Data sample format code:

 
 

1 = 32-bit IBM floating point

2 = 32-bit fixed-point (integer)

3 = 16-bit fixed-point (integer)

4 = 32-bit fixed-point with gain code (integer)

027

- 028 * CDP fold (expected number of data traces per ensemble).

029

- 030

Trace sorting code:

 

1 = as recorded

2 = CDP ensemble

3 = single fold continuous profile

4 = horizontally stacked

031

- 032

Vertical sum code (1 = no sum, 2 = two sum,

)

033

- 034

Sweep frequency at start in Hertz.

035

- 036

Sweep frequency at end in Hertz.

037

- 038

Sweep length in milliseconds.

039

- 040

Sweep type code:

 

1 = linear

2 = parabolic

3 = exponential

4 = other

041

- 042

Trace number of sweep channel.

043

- 044

Sweep trace taper length at start in milliseconds.

045

- 046

Sweep trace taper length at end in milliseconds.

047

- 048

Taper type code:

 

1 = linear

2 = cosine squared

3 = other

049

- 050

Correlated data traces (1 = no, 2 = yes).

051

- 052

Binary gain recovered (1 = yes, 2 = no).

053

- 054

Amplitude recovery method code:

 

1 = one

2 = spherical divergence

3 = AGC

4 = other

055

- 056

*

Measurement system (1 = meters, 2 = feet).

057

- 058

Impulse signal polarity (increase in pressure or upward geophone case movement gives 1=negative or 2=positive number).

059

- 060

Vibratory polarity code (seismic lags pilot signal by):

 

1 = 337.5 to 22.5 degrees

2 = 22.5 to 67.5 degrees

3 = 67.5 to 112.5 degrees

4 = 112.5 to 157.5 degrees

5 = 157.5 to 202.5 degrees

6 = 202.5 to 247.5 degrees

7 = 247.5 to 292.5 degrees

8 = 292.5 to 337.5 degrees

061

- 400

Unassigned (for optional information).

* strongly recommended

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The SEG-Y Trace Header

The 240-byte binary trace header consists of 2-byte and 4-byte integers in the following layout:

Bytes

Description

001

- 004 * Trace sequence number within line.

005

- 008

Trace sequence number within reel.

009

- 012 * Original field record number.

013

- 016 * Trace sequence number within original field record.

017

- 020

Energy source point number.

021

- 024

CDP ensemble number.

025

- 028

Trace sequence number within CDP ensemble.

029

- 030 * Trace identification code:

 

1 = seismic data

2 = dead

3 = dummy

4 = time break

5 = uphole

6 = sweep

7 = timing

8 = water break

9+ = optional use

031

- 032

Number of vertically summed traces yielding this trace.

033

- 034

Number of horizontally stacked traced yielding this trace.

035

- 036

Data use (1 = production, 2 = test).

037

- 040

Distance from source point to receiver group.

041

- 044

Receiver group elevation.

045

- 048

Surface elevation at source.

049

- 052

Source depth below surface.

053

- 056

Datum elevation at receiver group.

057

- 060

Datum elevation at source.

061

- 064

Water depth at source.

065

- 068

Water depth at receiver group.

069

- 070

Scalar for elevations and depths (+ = multiplier, - = divisor).

071

- 072

Scalar for coordinates (+ = multiplier, - = divisor).

073

- 076

X source coordinate.

077

- 080

Y source coordinate.

081

- 084

X receiver group coordinate.

085

- 088

Y receiver group coordinate.

089

- 090

Coordinate units (1 = length in meters or feet, 2 = arc seconds).

091

- 092

Weathering velocity.

093

- 094

Subweathering velocity.

095

- 096

Uphole time at source.

097

- 098

Uphole time at receiver group.

099

- 100

Source static correction.

101

- 102

Receiver group static correction.

103

- 104

Total static applied.

105

- 106

Lag time between end of header and time break in milliseconds.

107

- 108

Lag time between time break and shot in milliseconds.

109

- 110

Lag time beteen shot and recording start in milliseconds.

111

- 112

Start of mute time.

113

- 114

End of mute time.

115

- 116

* Number of samples in this trace.

117

- 118 * Sample interval of this trace in microseconds.

119

- 120

Field instrument gain type code:

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1 = fixed

2 = binary

3 = floating point

4+ = optional use

121

- 122

Instrument gain constant.

123

- 124

Intrument early gain in decibels.

125

- 126

Correlated (1 = no, 2 = yes).

127

- 128

Sweep frequency at start.

129

- 130

Sweep fequency at end.

131

- 132

Sweep length in milliseconds.

133

- 134

Sweep type code:

 

1 = linear

2 = parabolic

3 = exponential

4 = other

135

- 136

Sweep taper trace length at start in milliseconds.

137

- 138

Sweep taper trace length at end in milliseconds.

139

- 140

Taper type code:

 

1 = linear

2 = cosine squared

3 = other

141

- 142

Alias filter frequency.

143

- 144

Alias filter slope.

145

- 146

Notch filter frequency.

147

- 148

Notch filter slope.

149

- 150

Low cut frequency.

151

- 152

High cut frequency.

153

- 154

Low cut slope.

155

- 156

High cut slope.

157

- 158

Year data recorded.

159

- 160

Day of year.

161

- 162

Hour of day (24-hour clock).

163

- 164

Minute of hour.

165

- 166

Second of minute.

167

- 168

Time basis (1 = local, 2 = GMT, 3 = other).

169

- 170

Trace weighting factor for fixed-point format data.

171

- 172

Geophone group number of roll switch position one.

173

- 174

Geophone group number of first trace of original field record.

175

- 176

Geophone group number of last trace of original field record.

177

- 178

Gap size (total number of groups dropped).

179

- 180

Overtravel associated with taper (1 = down/behind, 2 = up/ahead).

181

- 240

Unassigned (for optional information).

* strongly recommended

The SEG-Y Trace Data

Seismic data is acquired by generating a loud sound at one location and recording the resulting rumblings at another location.

The source or shot which generates the sound is typically an explosion or vibration at the Earth's surface (land or sea). Each shot is recorded by many receivers. Generally a line of shots is fired. If one line is recorded, the data is a 2D survey, and if more than one line is recorded, the data is a 3D survey.

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Walter Kessinger: The SEG-Y Format

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The object of recording is to infer geological subsurface structure from the strength (amplitude) of the recorded signal at different times in the recording.

A trace begins life as the recording from one receiver. The recording is sampled at some discrete interval, typically around 4 milliseconds, and lasts for some duration, typically 4 or more seconds. After the initial recording, the traces are processed in any number of ways. This processing usually changes the absolute amplitudes such that amplitude units are irrelevant, and only relative amplitudes are significant. Also the trace may reflect a logical ordering different from the original (shot,receiver) pair.

But in the end, seismic data is almost always stored as a sequence of traces, each trace consisting of amplitude samples for one location (physical or logical).

SEG-Y Variations

Many variations of SEG-Y exist, most created to overcome SEG-Y's limitations.

The EBCDIC reel header is usually completely ignored, and when it is used, it may or may not follow the standard template, and it may even be in ASCII format.

The binary reel header is almost completely ignored. None of the fields should be assumed to be correct, although the number of samples per trace and the sample rate usually are. Often, programs that use the SEG-Y format will read values from the binary header by default but allow the user to override the header values.

The trace header contains important information but not always in the locations specified by the standard. To adapt SEG-Y for 3D surveys, a line number field is often added somewhere in the trace header. Programs that use values from the SEG-Y trace header usually allow the user to specify the byte location and length of the values.

The trace data is most often in 32-bit IBM floating point format. Occasionally 32-bit IEEE floating-point format is used.

Although the standard applies only to tapes, SEG-Y has been adapted for storing surveys on disk as well. Disk files have no record marks or file marks, so traditional methods of reading from tapes don't work with files. There are several SEG-Y disk adaptations: a binary file with 3200-byte and 400-byte headers followed by traces, a binary file with just traces, and Fortran sequential-access files which have 3200-byte and 400-byte headers followed by traces but with Fortran record marks separating them.

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A similar and common format is a flat file of trace data with no reel or trace headers.

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