The upgraded HPC4 takes its place amongst the world's most powerful systems
Italian oil major Eni has announced the activation of its new oil and gas exploration analysis supercomputer, which is based at the Eni Green Data Centre near Milan. The start-up of the system is further evidence of the penetration of big data in the oil and gas industry.
Eni’s HPC4 computer, which has been recently upgraded at a cost of US$25 million, is designed to process a variety of data inputs from multiple sources while assessing oil and gas fields, including drone-based exploration systems.
In a sign of how far the drive for data and improved efficiency in the oil and gas industry has evolved, HPC4 is the only commercial supercomputer among the world’s top 10 most powerful. The rest are operated by governments or academic institutions.
With a peak performance of 18.6 petaflops (one quadrillion floating point operations per second, or around 2 million times the power of the average smartphone), Eni’s computer far outstrips competition such as BP’s data processing system, which reached 9 petaflops in December 2017, or Total’s 6.7 petaflop Pangea project.
Eni intends to use HPC4 and its predecessor, the 3.8 petaflop HPC3, for geophysical imaging and to perform more accurate modelling of oil and gas reservoirs. The company’s aim is to speed up and clarifying the analysis process. The computer will be able to use data from drones, seismic scans and exploration wells to create simulations and maps of subterranean deposits and fields.
“These technologies will enable us, on the one hand, to accelerate and make the entire upstream process more efficient and accurate, reducing risks in the exploration phase and, at the same time, giving us a significant technological advantage,” said Claudio Descalzi, Eni’s CEO. “In our industry it is increasingly important to be able to process ever-increasing amounts of data, ensuring more accurate and faster results.”
The weak oil price of the past three years has forced operators to re-evaluate their spending, with digitalisation proving itself to be an important factor in driving down costs.
Digital oilfield processing systems such as HPC4 enable companies to capture more data, at high frequency, from smart sensors and analyse it in real time, or near real time.
Globally, annual offshore spending in the sector is forecast to reach around US$18 billion by 2022, and overall – including onshore and shale – the digital oilfield market is poised to surpass US$31 billion by 2020.
Investment at levels such as these would have a transformative effect on the energy industry and the global economy. A recent report from the World Economic Forum anticipated that a full digital transformation in the oil and gas sector could eventually unlock about US$1.6 trillion of value globally for the industry, its customers and wider society. A similar assessment by Oxford put the added value at US$816 billion, or 0.8% of global GDP by 2025.
This value would come from the optimisation of reservoir, well and facility development and performance, based on analysis of data from a fully digitised system. Further value would be realised by using virtual models generated from the data, which would enable testing and assessing the lowest cost development options.
In this context, Eni’s investment looks like a sound one and it is likely to be matched by the company’s industry peers as big data permeates the sector.