An effective seismic data compression method would be useful in storing industrial reflection seismic data. These data are stored on hundreds of thousands of digital tapes costing millions of dollars. One particular seismic data acquisition company uses more digital tapes than any concern in the world, except for the U.S. Federal government. Since little original seismic data is ever discarded and since it is best kept in climate-controlled long-term storage, large rooms are cut out of salt domes to store tapes containing old reflection seismic data. Any technique that would reduce seismic data storage space significantly would save the industry millions of dollars.
While smaller data storage requirements would be the main benefit of an effective seismic data compression technique, seismic data could be handled more conveniently in compressed form. Seismic data acquisition now requires shipping thousands of tapes from remote locations; reducing the data volume would lower these shipping costs. Much of the seismic industry's computer resources is used simply to move seismic data from tape to computer memory where they are processed. While compressing and reconstructing data increases computational costs, the cost of data transfer might offset this.
Although new storage technologies such as optical disks and new magnetic storage techniques promise some relief for the information storage problem, the amount of data being acquired is increasing rapidly, especially for 3-D surveys, and new technologies require years before achieving the reliability of standard tape storage and gaining the confidence of the industry. Data compression techniques fit the old storage technology as well as the new technologies and reduces the need for these costly new technologies.