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A novel approach to the automatic extraction of geological faults from three-dimensional (3-D) seismic data is described, and qualitative and quantitative comparisons of manually and automatically picked fault geometries interpreted from both high and medium quality 3-D seismic datasets are presented. An algorithm has been developed that allows semiautomated identification, extraction, and modeling of fault surfaces imaged in 3-D seismic datasets. Based on a multistage approach, the algorithm operates initially at a small spatial scale, identifying local discontinuities in the seismic horizons, and then gradually considers larger and larger segments of fault surfaces until a set of complete fault surfaces are identified. A large portion of the work involves merging of segments of fault surfaces, performed using a highest confidence first (HCF) stratagem, taking into consideration the context of the resultant fault geometry. We show that results from the automated fault picker compare favorably with a manually labeled set of faults surfaces interpreted from a high-quality dataset. Last, we present an estimate of the savings in human operator time that can be made by using the automated approach, indicating savings of multiple person-days for the multigigabyte datasets that typify the petroleum industry.