As Good as Gold – High Performance Computing Accelerates Oil Extraction
High Performance Computing (HPC) can complete complex and large-scale computational analysis workloads in a relatively short amount of time, bringing about many breakthroughs in scientific and technological development. HPC is also an indispensable tool for contemporary scientific research, and the number of fields that it can be applied to is constantly growing, such as for weather forecasting, earthquake imaging or genetic analysis. Even oil extraction can now rely on HPC to improve process efficiency and accuracy, allowing mining companies to save a huge amount of money and giving them a greater competitive advantage in the energy market.
From the commencement of exploration until the first drop
of oil is obtained is quite a long and expensive process. It can be said investing
in this business has a high cost, high risk and long wait of return.
One of the World’s Most Expensive Feats of Engineering – Oil Extraction
An important and indispensable energy source for the human race, petroleum is often referred to as “black gold” due to its high value. It is the most important fuel for transportation and the core raw material of industrial chemical products. From the beginning of industrialized society to the present, it has been a key part of our lives.
However, oil is a strictly limited resource. From the beginning when liquid oil could be pumped directly from the surface, the difficulty of extraction has increased to the point where oil ore must now be dug out from under the seabed. Precision instruments must be used to explore an oilfield, determine if there is any oil source, and then build and operate an offshore drilling platform to extract the oil and gas. Oil extraction is also known therefore as one of the world’s most expensive engineering tasks.
HPC: Applying an Accelerator to Oil Exploration
With continuous advancements in
exploration technology and breakthroughs in research and development, modern commercial
oil exploration & extraction is now quite different to the traditional
methods practiced at the end of the 19th century, and in recent
years even high performance computing (HPC) is being used to find new oil
sources. For example, survey equipment and sensors are first used in offshore oilfields
to collect marine geological data. After analyzing the geological structure of
the seabed, a high-quality 3D model can be constructed to conduct further
exploration and design a suitable drilling program – and by first locating the
most suitable starting point, the total costs of oil extraction can be reduced. 《Glossary: What is HPC?》
The geological exploration
process will generate a huge number of complex images and data, which is then processed
and analyzed by specialized geoscience research organizations. In 2017, one of
these multinational companies found GIGABYTE.
This company’s main business is to provide a variety of geological scientific and technical computing services for a large number of energy companies that are exploring new sources of oil and natural gas. After a careful evaluation process, they selected GIGABYTE’s industry leading GPU servers to help them quickly analyze data to accurately pinpoint oil and gas extraction sites.
《Recommend for You：Learn More about GIGABYTE’s GPU Server Product Series》
Eric Kao, Server Product
Marketing Manager for North America, notes that the product favored by this
multinational geoscience research company was GIGABYTE’s G291-280, because at
the time only GIGABYTE was able to support the densest configuration of up to
eight dual-slot accelerator cards in a 2U chassis – other vendors’ products
could support only up to six cards. This high density GPU server provides
excellent functionality by not only speeding up processing times to obtain more
accurate exploration results, but also by optimizing workload scheduling, and
can also be continuously upgraded to respond to ever-evolving computing needs.
When both parties progressed to further
discussion, the geoscience research company presented a difficult challenge -
the server was not to be installed into a normal server rack, but into a
specially made oil tank.
Marine oilfield exploration requires special
technology and a huge investment cost. After the collection of marine
geological data, high performance computing is used to convert it into a high
resolution 3D stratigraphic model, which is then used to confirm the location
of oil and gas extraction sites and accurately plan the new drilling project.
This company planned to use oil tanks for immersion cooling - at that time a very unique method of cooling, which had rarely been used in this industry. During initial contact, GIGABYTE’s team sought to clarify all the customer’s needs and thoroughly understand how this method of immersion cooling using special synthetic oil worked.
After investigation, it was found that the server should be modified before it could maintain normal operation when being entirely immersed into an oil tank. The system needed a lot of adjustment – all components with bearings and rotating parts needed to be stopped, especially the fans. Fans normally play a pivotal role in server heat dissipation – they must effectively cool all heat generating components, such as the CPU, GPU, memory and power supplies. If fans are removed and cooling is achieved instead via immersion into an oil tank, then a material with good heat dissipation qualities must be laminated to the components that require cooling. Heat can then be smoothly removed from the surface of these components.
GIGABYTE leveraged our technical expertise in cooling technology, assigning experts from our hardware, power supply, thermal & software (BIOS / BMC) engineering teams to evaluate, plan alternatives after the fans were stopped, and adjust the system configuration and modify BMC management settings. In addition, they needed to find a heat dissipation material that could work well in the immersion cooling oil; after testing the heat dissipation effect of various components, GIGABYTE found a suitable solution, and worked hard to satisfy all of the customer’s requirements.
Oil Immersion Technology Reduces Energy Consumption & Carbon Output – Saving Money & the Environment
Heat dissipation is very important for a server – the thermal energy of high heat generating components must be immediately removed in order to avoid system throttling and crashes or even permanent damage. Using traditional air-cooling to dissipate heat for a single high-specification, high-powered server may consume several hundred watts of electricity – and you can use this figure to estimate how enormous the power consumption of a huge data center filled with servers will be, and how serious an impact this will have on the environment.
The multinational geoscience research company therefore insisted on using specialized oil immersion tanks for cooling of their data center, which can not only reduce energy consumption and costs, but also increase the service life and efficiency of the server. Statistical data provided by the customer showed that oil immersion cooling could reduce total power consumption by 25% to 30% and reduce total operating expenses by up to 45%.
Another one of the possible benefits of using oil immersion cooling technology is that after internal cooling fans are removed the server chassis will have more free space, giving better flexibility and opportunities for other design applications. In the future, a server chassis of the same size could be equipped with more components – and only around half the number of servers would need to be deployed to satisfy the current computing power requirements. This can greatly increase the space density of the data center and contribute to reducing environmental impact.
Using a Wealth of Server Experience to Be the Biggest Help to Our Customers
GIGABYTE can understand the needs of different industries, and use our rich knowledge and experience of server products to solve difficulties and provide solutions that meet all customer requirements. Even in the face of completely new challenges or great technical obstacles, our team is highly flexible and responsive, capable of making customized adjustments in real time to provide high quality server products.
Upcoming Cooling Challenges Facing High Performance Computing Servers
Looking at the overall trends in this industry, the current headache facing data centers is about how to meet the huge heat dissipation requirements of high performance computing servers using air cooling. Although fan speed or power can be increased to enhance cooling capacity, the faster the fan rotation the louder the noise, and other problems can also arise.
The next generation CPU that Intel will launch next year could consume up to 300W of power, and with the development of different application scenarios such as AI or autonomous driving, more high performance GPUs will also be required. Higher performance computing will inevitably consume more power and generate more heat. In the next three to five years with new generations of GPU, CPU and FPGAs launching, both the power requirements and energy consumption of server hardware will continue to grow. Therefore, immersion cooling has gradually become a serious consideration for many organizations. For example, Microsoft is already evaluating the use of oil immersion cooling in their data centers, illustrating that this method is becoming a more and more viable choice for cooling.
In line with the increasingly important trend of immersion cooling, GIGABYTE has already developed the relevant experience and capabilities for server products using this cooling technology, and is looking forward to providing more comprehensive professional support to customers in various industry fields.
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