Statoil Uses SGI Visual Area Networking

On Sept. 25, 2002, geoscientists at Statoil equipped with a standard, off-the-shelf PC-were able to run a fully interactive interpretation session involving large 3D volumetric models of an oil field from a remotely located SGI(R) Reality Center(TM) facility. This demonstration, the first of its kind by energy industry leaders, proved the benefits of SGI(R) Visual Area Networking technology, which allows geographically dispersed teams to view and manipulate highly complex graphical data collaboratively using virtually any thin client over standard data networks.

The Visual Area Networking demonstration, hosted by Statoil and Kidra, was conducted at Statoil's Stavanger-based IB-Senter with the aim of analyzing data from the company's Gullfaks oil field in the Norwegian North Sea. The data and applications were running on an SGI(R) Onyx(R) family graphics server at Kidra's visualization center, also in Stavanger, and then sent to the thin client at the Statoil location via a fiber optic data link.

"This effort is a demonstration of the impact that remote, collaborative visualization can have on oil and gas exploration," said Knut Kirkemo, a staff geologist at Statoil. "With SGI's Visual Area Networking solution, it's now possible for two corporate partners to interpret large volumes of data collaboratively, enabling them to make rapid drilling and field development decisions."

The sample Gullfaks data included seismic, well, well log and seismic attribute information, as well as interpreted surfaces, horizons and faults. It was analyzed at the Kidra facility using an SGI Reality Center immersive visualization facility, which was powered by an SGI Onyx family graphics supercomputer running industry-leading geophysical software used by Statoil and Kidra in the original data interpretation.

The visual data was transferred to the remote thin client (in this instance, a deskside PC) via an Asynchronous Transfer Mode fiber-optic network that provided guaranteed bandwidth of 50Mb per second for the demonstration. The transmitted data was displayed on the desktop monitor at full PC screen resolution (1024 x 768) at between 15 and 20 frames per second. Participants at both locations were able to view the findings in real time, while trading off actual control of the collaborative session.

Remote collaboration is made possible by SGI(R) OpenGL Vizserver(TM) software, a cornerstone of Visual Area Networking that enables the interactive sharing of large 3D models between Reality Center facilities and thin clients. OpenGL Vizserver transmits only the frame-by-frame images of the data from graphics supercomputers rather than the actual data sets behind those images. As a result, OpenGL Vizserver can operate on virtually any type of client, including laptops, workstations and, shortly, even PDAs.