EU, Brazil Energy Interests Position for Exascale

By Tiffany Trader

January 25, 2018

Will exascale computing support a greener energy future? The European-funded HPC4E project believes that is the case. The consortium of 13 research and industry partners from Europe and Brazil published a detailed white paper this week offering guidance on the use of exascale architectures for the energy sector. Based on two years of research, the paper covers exascale-readiness for applications in oil & gas, wind and biogas combustion, industries important to both EU and Brazil.

The project holds that the “use of new exascale architectures and the corresponding advances in codes to fully exploit new chip capabilities will help address challenges for combustion technologies, wind power generation and hydrocarbon exploration, allowing a transition to greener and more advanced energy systems based on alternative fuels combined with renewable energy technologies.”

The paper is quite in-depth in presenting the technical challenges, successes and future opportunities involved in each of the three industries’ application sets. HPC4E notes that “the computational requirements arising from full wave-form modelling and inversion of seismic and electromagnetic data is ensuring that the O&G industry will be an early adopter of exascale computing technologies.”

Pointing to previous successes for HPC in the field, they cite findings that showed 3D acquisition alone boosted exploration drilling success from 13 percent to 44 percent between 1991 and 1996.

“Such success would have not been possible without HPC resources devoted to its processing,” the authors state. “But perhaps even more crucially, the existence of new technologies allowed opening areas previously thought impossible to explore into hugely successful business stories, as for example the Gulf of Mexico or the Brazilian Pre-salts. Without HPC there would have been no possibility to exploit hydrocarbons in these areas efficiently.”

Wind and biogas are also examined. HPC4E has identified that “the competitiveness of wind farms can be guaranteed only with accurate wind resource assessment, farm design and short-term micro-scale wind simulations to forecast the daily power production.” And that exascale HPC systems will be essential to improving combustion for biogas, for designing more efficient furnaces, engines, clean burning vehicles and power plants.

Illustrating how essential supercomputing has become for worldwide energy endeavors, HPC4E notes that 40 percent of China’s Tianhe-1A cycles went to petroleum-related activities in the 2010-11.

The energy sector has long been the largest industrial user of HPC. Major energy companies BP, Total, Eni and Norwegian company PGS all operate petascale systems to accelerate production and reduce risk, but Eni took the lead last week when it announced a 18.6-petaflops (peak) system, two times faster than BP’s top machine.

Geert Wenes, senior practice leader at Cray has said, “a perfect storm in seismic processing requirements is ensuring that the O&G industry will be an early adopter of exascale computing technologies.”

In making this research and guidance available to its partners, HPC4E anticipates “the exa-scale era will provide a significant platform for making important contributions in the power and transportation sectors towards more efficient, more flexible and with low emissions systems with direct impact on public health and climate change.”

The project’s key results have been summarized in a fact sheet. The full writeup, “Whitepaper about the use of Exascale computers in Oil & Gas, Wind Energy and Biogas Combustion industries” is available as a PDF.

The HPC for Energy project (HPC4E) launched in 2015 to promote the energy interests of Brazil and the European Union. The project website cites Brazil as having an estimated potential wind power of 145 GW, making it one of the largest potential wind energy producers of the world. Industry partners include REPSOL, TOTAL, Iberdrola and PETROBRAS, and the following research centers: Barcelona Supercomputing Center, CIEMAT, Inria, University of Lancaster (ULANC), Queen Mary University of London, COPPE, LNNC, ITA, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul and Universidade Federal de Pernambuco. The project coordinators are Barcelona Supercomputing Center (EU) and COPPE (Brazil).

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