November 20, 2013

Eni Joins Oil and Gas Petaflop Club

Tiffany Trader

Italian energy company, Eni, launched a new petaflop class supercomputer this week. Not to be outdone by BP or Total Group, which recently announced 2.2 and 2.3 petaflops systems respectively, Eni’s high-performance number-cruncher touts “in excess of 3 petaflops.”

(And don’t forget Woodside Energy, Australia’s largest independent oil and gas firm, which earlier this month declared its HPC intentions, although at a sub-petaflop level for now.)

An integrated energy company with a focus on oil and gas exploration & production, Eni has fired up the new supercomputer to support the firm’s seismic imaging and hydrocarbon exploration activities. The system will run Eni’s suite of 3D seismic imaging packages and proprietary petroleum system modelling algorithms.

Beyond their shared status as energy titans, BP, Total and now Eni are all running some of the largest private supercomputer installations in the world. The massive machines are providing these oil and gas outfits with the computing capacity needed to improve the accuracy and resolution of the geophysical and geological surveys. The benefits are increased oil production and safer drilling practices.

Unlike the CPU-only machines installed at BP and Total, the Eni supercomputer relies on a hybrid CPU-GPU cluster architecture with 1,500 dual CPU nodes (24,000 cores total) and 1,300 graphics accelerators, equivalent to 20,800 additional cores. The cluster is connected to a high bandwidth parallel storage system with 5 petabytes of disk capacity. Interestingly, Eni has revealed plans to maintain its cutting-edge capability by replacing half of the nodes every year with newer technology.

One of the highlights of Eni’s computing strategy is its Green Data Center, located in Ferrera Erbognone in Pavia, Italy, designed to host Eni’s central computing systems and its new supercomputer. Through innovative design principles, the new datacenter has helped Eni cut CO2 emissions by 335,000 tons per year and has led to significantly reduced operating costs. The 30MW center occupies 5,200 square meters of floor space.

The datacenter employs a passive cooling technique 75 percent of the time, so that use of air conditioners is limited to less than 25 percent of the time. Such principles enabled this mega-datacenter to achieve a very desirable PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) of less than 1.2.

Based in Italy, Eni is active in 90 countries and has over 78,000 employees. The company’s E&P division, which is focused on finding and producing oil and gas, has a presence in 43 countries.

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