PARIS, March 22 French oil major Total
on Friday launched a new supercomputer that will help it find
oil 15 times faster than before and rank it among the world's
top 10 institutions in terms of computing power.
The machine, called Pangea, will allow the Paris-based group
to help gauge more precisely the potential of exploration wells
and the size of its oil reserves.
Pangea helped analyse seismic data from Total's Kaombo
project in Angola in just nine days, instead of the four and a
half months it would have taken with its previous computer,
Philippe Malzac, IT director at Total's Exploration division,
Total trumps British rival BP with the 2.3-petaflop
supercomputer. BP said last December it was building a 2
petaflop supercomputing facility in Houston, Texas.
"Our competitors are also working on these kind of
algorithms, but we think this is giving us a head start," Malzac
Malzac declined to disclose the purchasing cost of the new
system, but said it would spend 60 million euros ($77.55
million) to run it over the next four years.
The computer is 15 times more powerful than its previous
Rostand computer, which it has used since 2008, with computing
capacity equivalent to that of 27,000 office computers.
Oil prices have stood above $100 a barrel -- a comfortable
level for investment -- for most of the last two years, pushing
oil and gas companies to spend ever more on exploration and
drilling in high-risk but lucrative areas, mostly under the
Total said earlier this year it would raise its exploration
budget to $2.8 billion this year, a 12 percent increase from the
The supercomputer, built by California-based Silicon
Graphics International (SGI), will be stored at Total's
research centre in the southwestern French city of Pau.
The global market for high-performance computers is growing
at 7 percent a year, with the top-end of the market rising by up
to 28 percent annually, said Bill Mannel, Vice-President of
Product Marketing at SGI.
Large multinational firms are now using systems as powerful
as some military equipment, Mannel said.
"At the same time we're installing Total, we're actually
installing a very large system for the U.S. Defense department,
with similar kind of capability, at the U.S. air force site in
Ohio," he added.
Supercomputers are ranked twice a year, in June and
November, by the TOP500 table (www.top500.org).
With Pangea, Total ranks ninth on that list, putting it two
ranks above the most powerful supercomputer in France, which is
used by top public nuclear research centre CEA and built by
French company Bull.
The world's most powerful supercomputer in last November's
ranking was Titan, which is located in Tennessee and was funded
by the U.S. Department of Energy. Titan is used in the fields of
astrophysics and climate change simulations, among others.