Houston, We Have a Gas Problem

Seismic researchers at the University of Houston are hoping to solve problems locating oil and natural gas reserves using IBM Cell/B.E. technology. (All right. The headline might have been a little misleading.) The university's Mission-Oriented Seismic Research Program (M-OSRP) is looking into new algorithms for sub-salt and sub-basalt hydrocarbon exploration and production using systems based on Cell/B.E. processors.

According to IBM, which is supporting the group, such challenging areas of exploration can lead to a breakdown in existing algorithms used to detect hydrocarbon, resulting in a need for new algorithms and a "concomitant requirement for increased computing power.  An effective and comprehensive response needs to begin by first recognizing and then responding to each of these different types of challenges.  IBM's Cell/B.E. processor has the potential to significantly contribute to several different aspects and initiatives within that campaign."

"The IBM team's astute technical vision, impressive capability and business acumen not only recognize the breadth and depth of the E&P challenge, but also that partnering and collaborating with M-OSRP and its petroleum industry sponsors provides a reasonable chance of contributing toward an effective and comprehensive response," said Arthur Weglein, director of M-OSRP and Cullen Distinguished Professor of Physics at the University of Houston.  "The key responsibility of our group is to educate and mentor graduate students to become the next generation of scientific research leaders while addressing innate seismic algorithmic assumption violation and failure.  Our research purpose is to provide new, high-impact seismic capability, methods, and algorithms--the 'what to compute.'  However, many of our algorithms are extremely computer intensive, and their new level of effectiveness requires a matching new computing vision and capability."

IBM, for its part, said one of its central objectives "is to see how the Cell/B.E. supercomputer functions in a real-time atmosphere and how to design the optimal machine for seismic activities.  The M-OSRP sponsors have a High-Performance Computing Committee that manages and guides that activity in cooperation with IBM and M-OSRP."

The University of Houston in Texas serves more than 35,000 students and operates more than 40 research centers and institutes.

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About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director, education for 1105 Media's Public Sector Media Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal. A 22-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).


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