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ExxonMobil Supercomputer Breakthrough Simulates Oil, NatGas Reservoirs in Record Time

ExxonMobil Corp., in a shout-out once again to its technology heft, said a collaboration with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) achieved a major breakthrough, dramatically reducing the amount of time it usually takes to model oil and natural gas reservoirs.

The unique parallel simulation model used 716,800 processors, the equivalent of harnessing the power of 22,400 computers with 32 processors per computer, the supermajor said Thursday. The record run, the largest number of processor counts ever reported by the oil and gas industry, resulted in data output thousands of times faster than typical reservoir simulation. The simulation is considered one of the largest ever by industry in engineering disciplines such as aerospace and manufacturing.

"This breakthrough has unlocked new potential for ExxonMobil's geoscientists and engineers to make more informed and timely decisions on the development and management of oil and gas reservoirs," said ExxonMobil Upstream Research Co. President Tom Schuessler. "As our industry looks for cost-effective and environmentally responsible ways to find and develop oil and gas fields, we rely on this type of technology to model the complex processes that govern the flow of oil, water and gas in various reservoirs."

Reservoir simulation studies are used to guide decisions such as well placement, facility design and operational strategy development to minimize financial and environmental risk. To model complex processes accurately for the flow of oil, water and natural gas in the reservoir, simulation software has to solve several complex equations. Current reservoir management practices in the oil and gas industry often are hampered by the slow speed of reservoir simulation.

ExxonMobil scientists worked with the NCSA to benchmark a series of multi-million to billion cell models using NCSA's Blue Waters Supercomputer.

"NCSA's Blue Waters sustained petascale system, which has benefited the open science community so tremendously, is also helping industry break through barriers in massively parallel computing," said NCSA's acting director Bill Gropp.

ExxonMobil said its collaboration with the NCSA required careful planning and optimizing all aspects of the reservoir simulator from input/output to improving communications across hundreds of thousands of processors. Their efforts delivered scalability on several processor counts, ranging from more than 1,000 to nearly 717,000, which at the high end is the full capacity of NCSA's Cray XE6 system.

ExxonMobil collaborates with researchers worldwide on technology breakthroughs, considered the lifeblood of oil and gas, but they often aren't publicized.

However, last month the producer unveiled cMist technology,which is used in the pipeline to dehydrate natural gas and reduce costs for pipeline transport in land-based and offshore operations. And in 2015, ExxonMobil said it hadsecured an agreement with the world's largest liquefied natural gas buyer, Korea Gas Corp., and Korea's funding arm dedicated to innovative energy research, to collaborate on natural gas technologies.

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