How GPUs Are Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry

by Joe Eaton

Oil and gas companies are in the data business as much as they are in the hydrocarbon business. To stay ahead of the competition, they need to derive insights from the massive amounts of sensor, geolocation, weather, drilling and seismic data they generate.

Traditional interpretation methods are increasingly challenged by the volume of data, fewer experts in the industry and slow compute, which can no longer keep up with the demand. Over the years, many companies have become constrained by the compute power, memory bandwidth, and the amount of power and cooling that’s needed to run their technical operations.

Value of GPUs

The speed and accuracy of seismic interpretation are critical in the exploration workflow. Multi-GPU and multi-node GPU technology boosts throughput for visualization and heavy computation. This improves calculation of 3D seismic trace attributes and visual analysis of complex regional basins right at the interpreter’s desk.

The high compute power, massively paralleled processors and high-speed memory of GPUs allow oil and gas companies to:

  • Visualize and analyze petabytes of well location data in milliseconds
  • Implement advanced algorithms to locate faults in underground structures
  • Use deep learning training on raw seismic trace data to accelerate exploration and discover faults in geology

The result is dramatically reduced model processing cycle times and sharper images of region-of-interest datasets. This can lead to more effective lease bidding, higher service revenues and, ultimately, greater chances of striking oil.

Accelerated Analytics

Well operators can visualize and analyze massive volumes and high cardinality of sensor data such as pump pressures, RPMs, flow rates and temperatures. Real-time analytics and alerts allow them to predict which piece of equipment might fail, which similar gear might do the same, and well loss of circulation in drilling.

MapD, a GPU-accelerated in-memory database and visualization platform, allows customers to identify regions of high activities to determine and predict better bid prices. This demo shows how hot certain counties are and how to run the business as drilling, production, oil and land companies.

Machine Learning

Oil and gas companies also use machine learning algorithms to determine the best way to save money and adjust operations as conditions change. For example, if multiple submersible pumps fail without prediction or warning, the downtime would cost oil and gas companies millions of dollars a day.

Another example is oil and gas companies that take small samples of rock (cores) to extrapolate the value of the huge volumes within the reservoirs underneath. Without the prediction capability, there are huge risks with human errors. Machine learning techniques are more repeatable and reliable than human interpretation.

By running simulation of the core and matching that to the data collected, oil and gas companies can train the machine learning models to predict the behavior of the fluids of the core sample. This is very computational intensive and that’s where GPUs come in.

Deep Learning

To determine where to drill, oil and gas companies rely on seismic imaging, a tool that uses microphone arrays to image the surface rock layers and other geological features. GPUs help companies like Chevron turn these large volumes of seismic data images into 3D maps to improve the accuracy of reservoir predictions, and mitigate the risk associated with expensive drilling and production activities.

Chiyuan Zhang, a Ph.D. student at MIT, and Shell started a joint project to use physics simulations to generate models to synthesize training data to help train deep learning models. Then they leveraged unsupervised deep learning techniques to automatically detect subsurface faults from seismic traces for oil and gas exploration. GPUs allowed them to speed up their experiment by 40% over their CPU-only solutions.

Other companies are using deep learning to train models to predict and improve the efficiency and safety of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” The fracking process can cost tens of millions of dollars. Companies want to quickly find effective fracture recipes for each shale region. Deep learning helps oil and gas companies learn how to fracture a given field as efficiently as possible, by suggesting effective spacings, proppants and pressure patterns for each well.

Oil and Gas Conferences

NVIDIA will be at several upcoming oil and gas conferences. Stop by to learn more about how GPUs are transforming the oil and gas industry.