Repsol Using Playstation Chip to Hunt for Oil in GOM

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (via Dow Jones), Jan. 6, 2010

Repsol, the Spanish-based oil giant, is using a special high-end computer processor used in Sony's Playstation 3 games console to hunt for oil in the Gulf of Mexico--and feeding back the results to help develop the next generation gaming machine.

The so-called Kaleidoscope Project is a partnership of top geophysicists and computer scientists from Repsol and IBM. At its core is a powerful processing chip developed originally by IBM for Sony's Playstation 3 and the gaming industry. The benefits of IBM's chip and its enormous processing power were then adopted by Repsol to assist it in creating a major advance in computerized techniques for seismic imaging in the search for oil reserves.

The rich oil reserves of the deep and ultra-deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico reservoir more than 25,000 feet from the surface. It is estimated that the region holds some 37 billion barrels of undiscovered, conventionally recoverable oil. However, these reserves are very difficult to locate and reach due to thick layers of salt that preclude visualization underneath.

A suite of production-ready, high-end imaging applications will implement the most advanced algorithms developed for the project, and in the industry, culminating with unimplemented cutting-edge, full-wave field imaging techniques.

This means Repsol will have access to a seismic imaging solution well ahead of its competitors for the exploration and development of hydrocarbons in the Gulf of Mexico.

Since the beginning of this successful and unique collaboration, Repsol has been able to pass back its results and research findings to IBM to improve the Playstation and other applications.

Valuable lessons could therefore be learned by both sides, resulting in further developments in the technology. Not only has Repsols input helped improve its own success rate, allowing it to implement more and better algorithms, the project feedback has also helped give IBM a head start in its own development of the next generation of supercomputing chip designs.

Chips that are not only changing the gaming market, but also the face of computer-driven industry and research as a whole.

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