Supercomputing and high-performance computing in general is used mostly by big companies, and there’s not many bigger than Saudi Aramco.
The supermassive oil company has an estimated market capitalisation of anywhere $1.2 trillion to $10 trillion. Even the lower end of the calculations probably makes it the largest company in the world.
Its production of crude oil varies from year to year, but it’s believed to have one of the world’s largest reserves.
And managing all that oil – keep an eye on the reserves as well as monitor what’s being produced, transported and so on – is a job for at least one gigantic computer.
Which is why the company has been working with the Kaust university and Ansys, an industrial software company, to develop a new computing system.
In doing so, the group claims it has exceeded the current supercomputing record by as much as five times.
The milestone was achieved by scaling Ansys Fluent – used for computational fluid dynamics – to nearly 200,000 processor cores.
This enabled the company to make “critical and cost-effective decisions faster and increase the overall efficiency of oil and gas production facilities”.
Ansys says the new supercomputing record represents a more than a five-fold increase over the record set just three years ago, when Fluent first reached the 36,000-core scaling milestone.
The calculations were run on the Shaheen II, a Cray XC40 supercomputer, hosted at the Kaust Supercomputing Core Lab – KSL.
By leveraging high performance computing, Ansys, Saudi Aramco and KSL accelerated a complex simulation of a separation vessel from several weeks to an overnight run.
This simulation is critical to all oil and gas production facilities – empowering organizations around the world to reduce design development time and better predict equipment performance under varying operational conditions.
Saudi Aramco says it will apply this technology to make more-informed, timely decisions to retrofit separation vessels to optimize operation throughout an oil field’s lifetime.
Wim Slagter, director of HPC and cloud alliances at Ansys, says: “Today’s regulatory requirements and market expectations mean that manufacturers must develop products that are cleaner, safer, more efficient and more reliable.
“To reach such targets, designers and engineers must understand product performance with higher accuracy than ever before – especially for separation technologies, where an improved separation performance can immediately increase the efficiency and profitability of an oil field.
“The supercomputing collaboration between Ansys, Saudi Aramco and KSL enabled enhanced insight in complex gas, water and crude-oil flows inside a separation vessel, which include liquid free-surface, phase mixing and droplets settling phenomena.”
Ehab Elsaadawy, computational modeling specialist and oil treatment team leader at Saudi Aramco’s research and development center, says: “Our oil and gas facilities are among the largest in the world.
“We selected a complex representative application – a multiphase gravity separation vessel – to confirm the value of HPC in reducing turnover time, which is critical to our industry.
“By working with strategic partner, Kaust, we can now run these complex simulations in one day instead of weeks.”
KSL’s Shaheen II supercomputer is a Cray system composed of 6,174 nodes representing 197,568 processor cores tightly integrated with a richly layered memory hierarchy and interconnection network.
Jysoo Lee, director of KSL, says: “Multiphase problems are complex and require multiple global synchronizations, making them harder to scale than single phase laminar or turbulent flow simulation. Unstructured mesh and complex geometry add further complexity.
“Our scalability tests are not just designed for the sake of obtaining scalability at scale. This was a typical Aramco separation vessel with typical operation conditions, and larger core counts are added to reduce the time to solution.
“Ansys provides a viable tool for Saudi Aramco to solve their design and analysis problems at full capacity of Shaheen. And for Kaust-Aramco R&D collaboration, this is our first development work. There are more projects in the pipeline.”