Need for Better Computing Skills More Critical Amid Aging Work Force

Faced with an aging work force and a critical need to increase productivity, the oil and gas industry reports that access to high-performance computing (HPC) capability is required now more than ever, according to a new survey released today by Microsoft Corp. at the Microsoft Global Energy Forum 2008.

The Microsoft High-Performance Computing Oil and Gas Industry Survey 2008, conducted by Tulsa, Okla.-based Oil & Gas Journal Online Research Center, shows that although most of the industry's geoscientists and engineers have immediate access to the compute power they require, there is still significant room for improvement as computing needs grow more complex. In addition, a large number of respondents believe that more ready access to high-performance computing capability could increase production, enhance decision-making, reduce drilling delays and diminish project risk -- all critical aspects of the oil and gas supply chain.

"Last year, this research revealed that oil and gas high-performance computing experts realize the impact their work has on oil and gas production and their companies' success," said Craig Hodges, U.S. energy and chemicals industry solutions director at Microsoft. "This year, a greater percentage of experts surveyed understand the powerful positive impact high-performance computing can have on workers' productivity, their ability to make smart decisions and the industry's overall ability to find, produce, refine, and deliver oil and gas."

The online survey was conducted in February 2008 and includes responses from 212 qualified oil and gas industry experts at major companies worldwide. Significant findings include the following items.

89 percent believe the diminishing work force and necessity to increase production makes the need for high-performance computing capabilities more critical today than ever.

89 percent report that more ready access to high-performance computing capability could increase oil and gas production, up from 81 percent in 2007.

47 percent lack the processing power on their desktop to complete compute-intensive workloads in a timely manner.

40 percent say that drilling is often delayed because of the time it takes to perform the required computations.

44 percent admit they sometimes make business decisions before completing sufficient data analyses.

61 percent report that having the capability to run additional tasks and iterations would reduce project risk.

41 percent of compute-intensive scientific applications running on a cluster take from overnight to a week to run, respondents say, up from 25 percent last year.

53 percent say their compute-intensive scientific applications require four or more iterations to reduce uncertainty. At the same time, 26 percent say the optimal number of iterations to increase their productivity is more than eight.

"We see these same trends and opportunities," said Robert Frost, technology manager of simulation development for Roxar ASA, a company that develops reservoir management and production optimization software. "Oil and gas professionals must have the tools needed to manage increasing detail and data complexity, quantify uncertainty, and improve physical modeling to keep production decisions on track. Users of our Tempest simulator are increasingly running compute-intensive parallel jobs on HPC clusters."

Continued hardware and software advances, such as more powerful, lower-cost processors and the upcoming launch of Windows HPC Server 2008, the successor to Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, have made it easier for geoscientists and engineers in both upstream and downstream to install and use clusters and complete high-performance computing jobs. However, as noted in the survey results, the increase in data and computing complexity still poses a challenge for oil and gas companies. Those professionals require even greater access and speed with their high-performance computing resources to make up productivity losses driven by a rapidly retiring work force.

"This research shows a direct correlation between high-performance computing availability and engineers' and geoscientists' abilities to effectively complete their roles in finding, producing, processing and delivering oil and gas and petroleum products," said Robert J. Beck, manager of the Oil & Gas Journal Online Research Center, an organization that also closely watches and reports on all aspects of the industry's activities, including production, refining and construction. "With the level of risk that these industry professionals -- and the industry as a whole -- manage, having access to the right technology tools is critical today more than ever."

Geoscientists in oil and gas use high-performance computing to make better decisions regarding prospect generation, lower the probability of dry holes and speed up the time to first oil. In addition, engineers who rely on computer-aided engineering within drill and platform manufacturers, down-hole tool and drill bit manufacturers, refining and transportation, and the petroleum industry use high-performance computing to improve computational fluid dynamics, design and enhance their equipment, and process troubleshooting capabilities.

"These professionals overwhelmingly agree there is a need for the oil and gas industry to add compute power and continue developing high-performance computing capabilities," said Ali Ferling, worldwide oil and gas industry managing director at Microsoft. "Microsoft is committed to helping this and other industries discover new ways to improve their technical computing capabilities and time to insight with easier cluster management, enhanced collaboration, and common client and cluster development tools."


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