From bytes to barrels - Energy Factor
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From bytes to barrels

Developing energy requires a big toolbox. It relies on detailed geological surveys to find the oil and gas, high-performance drilling platforms to access the reservoirs and, finally, the ability to transport the crude or natural gas responsibly. Energy companies also depend on powerful supercomputers to successfully operate their oil and gas fields.

Before initiating production, geoscientists, engineers and computer scientists first build out a digital replica of the reservoirs where the oil or gas is buried deep beneath the ground. These days, with more and more oil and gas reserves stored in hard-to-access areas, computer algorithms increase the chance of operating safe and commercially successful wells.

These complex models, built on reams of data, take a lot of time to build. But a group of ExxonMobil scientists has developed breakthrough software that is able to develop the models in minutes rather than days.

This milestone was achieved at the University of Illinois’ National Center for Supercomputing Applications, home to one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, known as Blue Waters. In addition to energy, the platform supports advanced research in fields ranging from physics to the study of volcanoes.

The ExxonMobil research project involved more than 22,000 computers, which combined held more than 700,000 processors. That’s enough computing power to perform 1 quadrillion calculations every second. The computer’s disk storage space is large enough to store all of the printed documents in all of the world’s libraries.

The achievement, though, isn’t just about raw computer power, but also the ability to finesse these individual machines to effectively communicate with one another and ultimately build the reservoir models quickly and accurately.

The breakthrough will speed up the development of oil and gas reserves that will help supply the world’s ever-expanding demand for safe and reliable energy.

Scroll through our infographic to understand why ExxonMobil’s supercomputer breakthrough is a big deal.

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