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BP to House Largest Commercial Research Supercomputer


HOUSTON, Dec. 10 – BP announced today it has begun construction of a new facility to house the largest supercomputing complex for commercial research in the world, a project that will keep BP at the forefront of seismic imaging technology and be a critical tool in its global hunt for oil and natural gas in coming years.

The new High-Performance Computing (HPC) center, scheduled to open mid-2013 at BP's Westlake Campus in Houston, will serve as a worldwide hub for processing and managing huge amounts of geologic and seismic data from across BP's portfolio and enable scientists to produce clear images of rock structures deep underground.

It will play a key role in identifying potential exploration targets from the Gulf of Mexico to Azerbaijan. With added computing power, the center will also help teams work more efficiently and accurately than ever before, reducing both drilling risk and the costs and timetables of future exploration programs.

"This is not just about building a bigger and better computer," said Robert Fryar, Executive Vice President Production. "BP's new high-performance computing center will be as important to our global search for new energy resources as any piece of equipment we employ today, and it once again highlights BP's commitment to applying the best technology to the world's biggest energy challenges."

BP's existing HPC center was the world's first commercial research center to achieve a petaflop of processing speed – or one thousand trillion calculations per second. But it has reached maximum power and cooling capacity in its current space at Westlake Campus.

The new HPC center will be housed in a three-story, 110,000 square foot facility with room to accommodate BP's computing needs today and into the future. Equipped with more than 67,000 CPUs, it is expected to have the ability to process data at a rate of up to two petaflops by next year. The existing HPC now has a peak rate of 1.227 petaflops.

BP's new supercomputer will also boast total memory of 536 terabytes and disk space of 23.5 petabytes – the equivalent of 147,000 Apple iPods with 160GB memory. If stacked vertically, those iPods would climb nearly five times higher than the Empire State Building.

High-performance computing has been vital to advances BP has made in seismic imaging over the past two decades, including the development of wide azimuth towed streamer (WATS) seismic technology for subsalt imaging, which has transformed the way data in the Gulf of Mexico and other major offshore basins is acquired and processed. These ideas are tested in the computer before they are taken to the field. Such advances have been instrumental in some of BP's largest oil and gas discoveries in recent years.

With each step forward, however, the demand for computing power has increased, a trend that continues today. BP's computing needs, for instance, are 10,000 times greater than they were in 1999. BP scientists can now have the computing power to complete an imaging project in one day that would have taken 4 years using computing technology from just 10 years ago.

Such advances are especially important to BP, which will test 15 completely new oil and gas plays globally between 2012 and 2015. About 35 of its exploration wells will target prospects, each with over a quarter billion barrels of oil equivalent of potential resources. As part of this expansion, BP has roughly doubled spending on seismic data over the last few years and intends to keep investing at this higher rate.

In addition to enabling future growth, the new HPC center in Houston will also feature improved electrical and cooling systems that reduce power consumption by 30 percent over the current facility, as well as space for other BP technical support systems and offices.

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Source: BP

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