Total Advances in Oil Drilling Technology

International oil and gas company Total, which is headquartered in Paris, France, recently revealed its latest investment in oil exploration technology – a mega computer that will help step up exploration by as much as 15 times, making Total one of the 10 leading firms in the world with the fastest computer systems.

Pangea, a supercomputer, will help Total generate more accurate calculations of an oil well’s potential, including the volume of oil reserves it holds.

The company’s Information Technology Director for Exploration, Philippe Malzac, said that, with their old machine, seismic data analysis normally took more than four months to complete. With Pangea, seismic analysis took less than ten days, based on computations made for the firm’s Kaombo project.

With this development, Total’s Pangea bested BP’s Texas supercomputer facility, which has a capacity of 2.0 petaflop. Pangea carries a capacity of 2.3 petaflop. A petaflop is a measure of a system’s computing performance.

Malzac said that other major oil and gas firms are also investing in oil exploration technology similar to the Pangea’s calculating and processing system. However, he believes Total is already a step ahead of the others.

While he refused to disclose exactly how much was spent to acquire the new machine, he did mention that about $77 million is needed to operate it in the medium term.

Total used to do seismic analysis with its Rostand computing facility back in 2008. The old machine has a low computing capacity, comparable to the combined power of some 27,000 desktop computers.

Crude oil prices per barrel have generally stayed beyond the $100 mark and, for some major oil and gas firms, this price level was very conducive for oil investments. More money was poured into oil exploration in areas way below the seabed, requiring advanced technology that may be quite costly.

Total intends to increase its 2013 budget for oil exploration by 12 percent from last year’s figure, to about $2.8 billion.

Silicon Graphics, International is the firm responsible for building Total’s new computing facility.  The firm’s Vice President for Marketing, Bill Mannel, cited that world demand for high-capacity computing systems has been on the rise, growing by about 7 percent annually. He added that some leading global companies already have computer systems with processing speeds that match those in use by the military.

He added further that it has built a huge computing system for the U.S. Department of Defense at about the same period that it has installed the Pangea for Total.

Late last year, Titan topped the list of mega computers throughout the world with the highest computing capability.  The U.S. Energy Department helped fund Titan, a mega computer with a capacity of 20 petaflops. Its application includes those in Astrophysics.

by chris termeer