Norsk Hydro Uses SGI Technology for Gulf of Mexico Exploration

Norsk Hydro has selected SGI technology to expand its national and international oil exploration efforts as well as for a number of research projects. To perform seismic acoustic tomography and migration velocity analysis to determine optimal oil well drilling sites, Norsk Hydro's facility in Bergen, Norway, selected a large, shared-memory SGI Altix system. For its research center in the port city of Porsgrunn, Norsk Hydro acquired an SGI Altix for computational fluid dynamics applications and a Silicon Graphics Prism(TM) visualization system.

Norsk Hydro's research center in Bergen is developing and testing different methods of imaging and working on a large variety of technical services for oil and gas production. In addition to data sets of the North Sea, the energy company is exploring Eurasia and Angola; data from Libya has recently arrived. For its continued international expansion, Norsk Hydro selected an SGI Altix 3700 Bx2, with 40 Intel Itanium 2 processors and 96GB memory; it is connected to their CAVE, with a virtual reality (VR) environment originally designed on SGI systems and now available as a VR software package from Schlumberger. The CAVE runs on a previously purchased Silicon Graphics Onyx 3000 visualization system with five graphics pipes. Installed in May, the SGI Altix system is currently running Paradigm GeoDepth tools for 3D tomography and migration velocity analysis on data acquired in the Gulf of Mexico.

Almost exactly the same process as X-ray tomography performed in medical centers for diagnostic purposes, seismic acoustic tomography is a process where sound is sent into water and the sounds that are bounced back from multi-layered complex earth model blocks indicate many seismic properties important to oil exploration, such as velocities, porosities and fluid saturation.

"Tomography requires very big matrixes and a machine with not just big memory, but with shared-memory, and this is why we have the Altix," said Jan Pajchel, principal geophysicist, Norsk Hydro, in Bergen. "With the SGI shared-memory architecture, we are not forced to divide our migration velocity cube to sub-volumes. Sub-volumes always make the solution unstable because the more you divide the data, the harder it is to match it up again for an accurate image. With the Gulf of Mexico data on the Alitx, we are producing cubes of some 30 by 20 by 15 kilometers, because the Gulf is so deep, and our data sets range from 300 to 500GB. I save quite a lot of input-output time with the big, shared-memory of the Altix because I can do migration analysis simultaneously for several big slices or on a bigger cube faster than ever before. We are very satisfied with the results from the Altix. This is a very important machine for geophysicists today."

The seismic cubes produced on the SGI Altix are delivered to Norsk Hydro's CAVE where data can be interpreted by multidisciplinary teams for use in optimal construction of 3D well trajectories, improving oil and gas recovery.

In addition to the SGI Altix 3700 Bx2 in use at Bergen, Norsk Hydro in Porsgrunn purchased an SGI Altix 3700 with 128GB memory and 96 Intel Itanium 2 processors running the Linux environment, an SGI InfiniteStorage TP900 system with eight 146GB drives, and a Silicon Graphics Prism(TM) visualization system with 8 Intel Itanium 2 processors running Red Hat Enterprise 3 Linux and SGI Advanced Linux Environment ProPack(TM), eight graphics pipes, 16GB memory, and two 146GB SCSI hard drives.

The Silicon Graphics Prism system is used to run various virtual reality (VR) simulations, including large-scale geometry, displaying walk-throughs of existing installations, design reviews of new onshore and offshore facilities, and general presentation of complex experimental and computational data. Norsk Hydro's Research Centre in Porsgrunn is developing new software in collaboration with Statoil, called VR Safety, on the Silicon Graphics Prism system. This software will be used to visualize and train both onshore and offshore personnel in handling emergency situations, such as an oil or gas leak or fire. The Silicon Graphics Prism visualization system is connected to a TAN Holospace, a corner space of 525 x 240 x 240 meters with screens on the walls and floor.

"We purchased the Silicon Graphics Prism system because we already had the Holospace, and, from what we determined, it's the only system that can drive the VR space and the size of the datasets that we are beginning to work on now," said Eirik Manger, principal engineer, Norsk Hydro Porsgrunn. "The Silicon Graphics Prism was selected because we believe that it is the best system we can get. With the SGI Altix, we went for a shared multiprocessor system because the talent and the performance of an SMP system is superior, and that's the most important thing for us, to be able to run both relatively small as well as large jobs faster."

The Research Centre in Porsgrunn uses the SGI Altix system to run large computational fluid dynamics problems and other calculations in datasets ranging up to 20 to 30GB at present. Data is currently visualized in the Holospace using COVISE software from VISENSO.

"Norsk Hydro joins the ranks of many leading energy exploration companies that are able to accelerate their seismic processing and seismic interpretation workflows with the affordable, scalable, Linux-based systems from SGI," said Michael Brown, energy segment manager, SGI. "The increased performance, accuracy and productivity that Norsk Hydro has achieved with SGI Altix and Silicon Graphics Prism systems allows them to stay ahead in the ever changing oil and gas industry."