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Supercomputing: Game-Changer for Oil & Gas Exploration

Oil majors are second only to the US Defense Department in terms of the use of supercomputing systems. That’s because supercomputing is the key to determining where to explore next—and to finding sweet spots based on analog geology.

What these supercomputing systems do is analyze vast amounts of seismic imaging data collected by geologists using sound waves. What’s changed most recently is the dimension: When the oil and gas industry first caught on to seismic data collection for exploration efforts, the capabilities were limited to 2-dimensional imaging. Now we have 3-dimensional imaging that tells a much more accurate story. But it doesn’t stop here. There is 4-dimensional imaging as well. What is the 4th dimension, you ask: Time (and Einstein’s theory of relativity). This 4th dimension unlocks a variable that allows oil and gas companies not only to determine the geological characteristics of a potential play, but also gives us a look at the how a reservoir is changing LIVE, in real time. The sound waves rumbling through a reservoir predict how its geology is changing over time.

The pioneer of geological supercomputing was MIT, whose post-World War II Whirlwind system was tasked with seismic data processing. Since then, Big Oil has caught on to the potential here and there is no finish line to this race—it’s constantly metamorphosing. What would have taken decades with supercomputing technology in the 1990s, now can…

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