Repsol Looks to Enhance Seismic with Kaleidoscope

Repsol YPF

Repsol YPF, a globally integrated energy company based in Spain, on Tuesday announced its launch of the Kaleidoscope Project, a "dream team" partnership of top geophysicists, computer scientists and organizations from around the world. Jointly, the team is creating a major advance in computerized techniques for seismic imaging, used to reveal structures buried deep in the earth in order to locate oil and gas deposits.

The Kaleidoscope Project now makes possible the full realization of the next generation seismic imaging technology, including a specialized technique called Reverse Time Migration (RTM), that will accelerate and streamline oil and gas exploration by several orders of magnitude compared to current industry standards.

The Kaleidoscope Project uses new models, algorithms and one of the world's most powerful supercomputers, called the MareNostrum, operated by the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC). Repsol YPF expects to begin deploying elements of the new Kaleidoscope RTM technology as early as the first quarter of 2007.

RTM: A Cost-Effective Reality

Repsol YPF now has exclusive access to the three key components of advanced seismic imaging: the RTM codes through Repsol's relationship with the pioneers of the technology; privileged access through BSC to Cell Broadband Engine (Cell BE) based systems; and exclusive access as well to the BSC's HPC research experience and MareNostrum supercomputer for use in the oil industry. Repsol YPF's integration of these components will make RTM imaging a routine, cost-effective reality for oil exploration.

RTM has been widely recognized as the next chapter in seismic exploration, as it can overcome the limitations of current migration methods in imaging complex geologic structures that exist in the Gulf of Mexico. The chief impediment to the large-scale, routine deployment of RTM has been a lack of sufficient computer power. RTM needs 30 times the computing power used in exploration today to be commercially viable and widely usable.

But now the Kaleidoscope Project brings together the necessary components of modeling, algorithms and the uniquely powerful computing power of the MareNostrum supercomputer to realize the promise of RTM, incorporate it into daily processing flows, to help solve exploration problems in a highly cost- effective way. Uniquely, the Kaleidoscope Project is simultaneously integrating software (algorithms) and hardware (Cell BE), steps that are traditionally taken sequentially.

A unique partnership

The project is the result of a unique partnership created by Repsol YPF that, in addition to its own world class research facilities, brings together several of the world's most distinguished scientific organizations:

  • 3DGeo, a Houston-based imaging company formed by Stanford University professor and seismic imaging pioneer, Biondo Biondi. 3DGeo has the proven capacity to implement new technologies in a production environment quickly and efficiently, and is one of the pioneers in wave-equation migration and velocity model building.
  • The Spanish government-owned Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) with vast experience in computer architecture and in parallelization for the Cell BE processor so multiple processors can be used simultaneously.
  • At the same time, Repsol-YPF joins the prestigious Stanford University's Stanford Exploration Project (SEP), a leading industry- funded academic consortium, whose purpose is to improve the theory and practice of constructing 3-D and 4-D images of the earth from seismic echo soundings.

"Advancing seismic imaging to the next level of precision poses a multi- disciplinary challenge," said Francisco Ortigosa, Repsol YPF's chief geophysicist and project leader. "That is why we have assembled a diverse team of the best minds from industry, government and academia for our Kaleidoscope Project."

Ortigosa added, "Kaleidoscope brings together 3DGeo's advanced algorithms and techniques; IBM's Cell BE based processors and supercomputing architecture; the fifth most powerful supercomputer in the world, and the first in Europe, the MareNostrum at the Barcelona Supercomputer Center; and Repsol-YPF experience in model building. The collective knowledge base and resources of Kaleidoscope's partners credibly promise to raise the industry standard in seismic exploration."

IBM developed the MareNostrum supercomputer and co-developed the Cell BE processor. Public benchmarks show that the Cell BE processors perform the computation of algorithms central to seismic imaging, called Fast Fourier Transforms, 40 times faster than leading brand processors.

"This collaboration will deliver a robust, first-to-market seismic imaging solution for Repsol-YPF, well ahead of the competition," said Biondo Biondi, co-founder and chief technical advisor of 3DGeo, and associate professor at Stanford University. "We estimate that this solution will accelerate seismic imaging by several orders of magnitude compared to conventional solutions running on standard Linux Clusters."

Business Impact

The rich oil reserves of the Gulf of Mexico are buried in deep and ultra- deep waters more than 40,000 feet, or 7.5 miles, from the surface. These reserves are very difficult to find and reach due to the extreme depths. Technological advances in earth imaging represent an opportunity to overcome this obstacle, yielding strong competitive advantages.

The Kaleidoscope Project's technology is expected to significantly reduce exploration risks in complex areas such as the Gulf of Mexico where thick layers of salt preclude the visualization of oil-bearing sands underneath. Minerals Management Service (MMS), the federal agency in the U.S. Department of the Interior that manages the nation's oil, natural gas and other mineral resources on the outer continental shelf in federal offshore waters, estimates that the Gulf of Mexico holds 37 billion barrels of "undiscovered, conventionally recoverable" oil, which, at $50/barrel, would be worth approximately $1.85 trillion.

"The development of new geophysical technologies is an essential component of Repsol-YPF growth strategy in the Gulf of Mexico," said Ramon Hernan, Repsol-YPF's North America Regional Director. "We have sustained continuous growth in the area since 2002, reinforced recently by the acquisition of Shenzhi assets from BP. The Kaleidoscope Project will allow us to maximize the value of our present assets and position the company as a key player in the deep and ultra-deep water exploration in the Gulf of Mexico."

"BSC offers Repsol over 20 years of experience in High Performance Computing research, as well as its MareNostrum supercomputer," said Prof. Mateo Valero, Director of the Barcelona Supercomputing Center. "The innovative collaboration between a private enterprise and academic researchers has great potential to generate enterprise business advantage. Collaboration across these worlds has been traditionally limited."

Ortigosa concluded, "Project Kaleidoscope builds on Repsol's long tradition of innovation in seismic imaging. From the beginning of our E&P activity in the Gulf of Mexico, we have been strongly committed to imaging technology. We developed an in-house processing facility characterized by a remarkable efficiency resulting from innovative integration of software and hardware. The concept is already proven. Now we are replicating this success model at a larger scale."

Repsol YPF is an integrated international oil and gas company, operating in more than 30 countries and is the leader in Spain and Argentina. It is one of the ten major private oil companies in the world and the largest private energy company in Latin America in terms of assets.

From exploration and production to marketing, Repsol YPF is present in all stages of the business. With an oil and gas production of over 1.1 million barrels of oil equivalent per day and a refining capacity that surpasses 1.2 million barrels per day, the company operates nine refineries, and is the leader in Spain, Argentina, and Peru.

Repsol YPF sells its oil products through a wide network of 6,800 sales outlets spread over Europe and Latin America. In chemicals, Repsol YPF is the top-ranking producer of petrochemical products in Spain and Portugal. In the liquefied petroleum gas business (LPG), it is the third largest company in the world and one of the most efficient operators. Repsol YPF also distributes natural gas, directly or via its affiliates, to over 9 million customers in Spain and Latin America.

3DGeo Development Inc. (3DGeo) is a leading provider of advanced seismic imaging services and software solutions for the oil and gas industry. 3DGeo helps oil and gas companies visualize 3-D earth structures and reduce the drilling risk associated with oil and gas exploration. Companies that use 3DGeo's services lower the cost of production, provide faster delivery of oil and gas to the marketplace, and tap oil and gas from ever more challenging plays. Since its founding in 1994, 3DGeo has accumulated a depth of technical expertise and built a highly focused organization to ensure that promising new technologies and the latest 3-D algorithms produce efficient, quick, and robust results. 3DGeo is a privately owned company with offices in Houston, TX and Santa Clara, CA, Brazil and Argentina, and representation in China and Europe.

In 2004 the Ministry of Education and Science, the Generalitat de Catalunya and the Technical University of Catalonia took the initiative of creating a National Supercomputing Center in Barcelona. The Barcelona Supercomputing Center - Centro Nacional de Supercomputacion (BSC-CNS) is the National Supercomputing Facility in Spain and was officially constituted in 2005. BSC-CNS manages MareNostrum, the most powerful supercomputer in Europe.

The Barcelona Supercomputing Center - Centro Nacional de Supercomputacion (BSC-CNS) is a research center focused in Computer Sciences, Life Sciences and Earth Sciences. Following this multidisciplinary approach, BSC-CNS brings together a critical mass of researchers, High Performance Computing experts and cutting-edge supercomputing technologies in order to foster scientific progress.