Common-azimuth imaging can significantly reduce the cost of full-volume 3-D prestack depth imaging of marine data sets. The common-azimuth imaging procedure comprises of two steps: first, transformation of the prestack data to common azimuth data by azimuth moveout (AMO); second, imaging the transformed data by common-azimuth migration. Both these steps are computationally efficient. AMO is a partial-migration operator and thus it has narrow spatial aperture. Common-azimuth migration is based on downward-continuation of the wavefield; therefore, its computational cost increases only as the square of the image depth. In contrast, the cost of conventional Kirchhoff migration is proportional to the cube of the image depth.
Because it is a wavefield-continuation method, common-azimuth migration does not require the computation of asymptotic Green functions. Therefore, common-azimuth imaging is likely to overcome some of the accuracy problems encountered by Kirchhoff migration in the presence of complex wave-propagation phenomena.
The proposed common-azimuth imaging procedure successfully depth imaged a marine data set recorded in the North Sea. These positive results suggest the application of common-azimuth imaging to velocity estimation based on wavefield focusing.