04/08/2015 - News

Pangea: 80,000 times more powerful than your average PC

Pangea: it’s not by chance that Total’s supercomputer bears the name of the single supercontinent that is thought to have existed some 250 million years ago. Housed in Total Exploration & Production’s Centre Scientifique et Technique Jean Féger R&D center in Pau, France, Pangea will have its power tripled by 2016. But what exactly is the purpose of a supercomputer?

A computer like no other

Pangea is a supercomputer that can perform 2.3 quadrillion operations per second or, in technical terms, 2.3 petaflops. “The upgrade currently underway will increase this computing power to 6.7 petaflops, the equivalent of 80,000 personal computers,” explains Philippe Malzac, IT Director for Exploration & Production at Total. “This will make it possible to apply increasingly complex algorithms to huge volumes of data”. Pangea is also a large-scale data storage tool: in 2016 it will have 27 petabytes of storage capacity, enough to store the equivalent of 5.7 millions DVDs! In short, Pangea is a computer – but much bigger and more powerful than the one on your desktop.

A resource serving the geosciences

But what is the purpose of such a powerful computer? When a company like Total explores an area for oil and gas, Pangea makes it easier to identify prospective acreage, reducing the risk of a drilling a dry hole. Through this supercomputer, Exploration can quickly process acquired seismic data and transform them into subsurface models. As François Alabert, head of Exploration Techniques, puts it, “Thanks to Pangea, we have images that are much clearer and richer in geological information and that are available much faster than before. This is essential for identifying complex oil traps and reducing technical risks. It also enables us to improve the safety and efficiency of the drilling process, which is increasingly complex and expensive. Sometimes it costs hundreds of millions of dollars to reach targets 10 kilometers below the surface!” Higher quality images result in faster, more reliable decisions as to whether or not to conduct exploration drilling to discover an oil or gas reservoir.

Pangea is also used at the production stage to enhance development of an oil or gas deposit’s reserves. When these reserves are developed, reservoir engineers can use the supercomputer to generate simulations of the movement of fluids in their area. These calculations make it possible to create “4D” images of the field’s “breathing” as oil or gas is produced and to identify the areas where oil can still be developed. This “animated” film results from 3D images produced at different points in time. Before Pangea, it sometimes took several weeks or months to produce these images. Now it’s a matter of hours or days. The physical models that can be used thanks to Pangea’s computing power have greater accuracy, making it possible to maximize production of oil or gas. Pangea thus improves the return on our colossal project development investments, which sometimes exceed $10 billion.