The efficient extraction of oil and gas from within the Earth's crust requires accurate images of subsurface rock structures.
Some materials are hard to capture, so KAUST researchers have developed a computational method for modeling large accumulations of subsurface salt, a challenging material to derive accurately from seismic imaging data.
Seismic imaging involves sending soundwaves into the ground, where they will be reflected at boundaries between rock structures.
Scientists analyze the reflected soundwaves to determine subsurface rock types and formations, and to pinpoint fossil fuel reservoirs.
However, in some regions, such as the Gulf of Mexico, the subsurface is peppered with salt bodies, which are huge accumulations of salt formed millions of years ago deep inside the Earth.
Salt is a low-density, buoyant substance, meaning that salt bodies gradually rise through the Earth's crust over time.