Supermajor Total SA has brought online the Pangea III supercomputer, said to be one of the world's most powerful commercial systems, which allows the French-based operator to enhance its ability to unearth natural gas and oil reservoirs.

The Pangea III’s capacity, which adds to predecessors Pangea I and II, is an IBM Power9 system. Even with charged power and storage, the supercomputer requires 1.5 MW, compared to 4.5 MW for the predecessor system. 

Data is considered by many to be the world’s most valuable resource, offering the oil and gas industry more precise informationto help create better wells and safer operations.

Power for the system is 31.7 petaflops1, equivalent to 170,000 laptops combined, while storage capacity increased to 73 petabytes2, equal to around 50 million high-definition movies. 

“Pangea III’s additional computing power enhances Total’s operational excellence,” said Total’s Arnaud Breuillac, president of exploration and production. “It enables Total to reduce geological risks in exploration and development, accelerate project maturation and delivery and increase the value of our assets through optimized field operations, with all this at a lower cost.”

Developed by IBM, the high performance computer also is expected to enhance energy efficiency, dividing the power consumption/petaflop by 11 to 1.5 MW for Pangea III versus 4.5 MW for Pangea I and II). 

The exploration and development seismic imaging would be able to process more data at a higher resolution to locate hydrocarbons, particularly useful in complex environments where resources are trapped under salt, as in Brazil, the Gulf of Mexico, Angola and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Pangea III’s development and production models would allow Total to use innovative reservoir simulation methods to more efficiently integrate a field’s production history and generate more predictive production models. 

“Pangea III also contributes to our business efficiency by enabling an early assessment of the value of exploration acreage and asset opportunities, thus enhancing selectivity in our new ventures,” Total management noted.  

The enhanced capabilities also extend to new applications across Total’s entire business, including molecular modeling to optimize refining processes or improve lubricants’ properties. In addition, the system is expected to enable research and development teams to test new algorithms and develop artificial intelligence solutions.

Pangea III was built using the same artificial intelligence (AI) architecture used in the U.S. Department of Energy's Summit and Sierra supercomputers.

The Pangea III “demonstrates that IBM Power Systems are not just for the large government or research organizations," said IBM Systems’ David Turek, vice president of Exascale Systems. "The world's largest businesses, like Total, are now tapping that same technology to profoundly change how they operate. It also gives them room to explore the role IBM Power Systems can play against their most data-intensive workloads like hybrid could and AI."

Finding more efficient ways to unearth hard-to-reach energy reserves, particularly via seismic imaging, is on every operator’s wish list. 

In 2017 BP plc recorded what it said was a major breakthrough in seismic imaging that identified more than 200 million bbl of additional resources at its Atlantis field in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. BP planned to deploy the imaging technique in fields around the world.

The imaging innovation enabled BP to enhance the clarity of images collected during seismic surveys, particularly areas below the earth's surface that previously were obscured or distorted complex salt structures. The sharper seismic images suggest that BP will be able to drill development wells in deepwater reservoirs with higher confidence and accuracy.

Also two years ago ExxonMobil Corp. touted a collaboration with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications that it said 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, ExxonMobil said at the time. 

The record run, then said to be 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 and was considered one of the largest ever by industry in engineering disciplines such as aerospace and manufacturing.