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Geophysicists use GPU computing to find oil and gas

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OpenGeoSolutions, a Calgary-based company of geophysicists, has turned to a GPU-computing based solution from Nvidia to improve performance in geological structure analysis.

Geophysicists in the oil and gas industry are seeking more accurate images of what lies beneath the earth. In order to find what's been buried for millions of years, OpenGeoSolutions uses a technique called 'spectral decomposition', specifically to reveal geological information that goes beyond classic seismic resolution and detection. The quality of the data produced by this technique is improved when large regional datasets are processed, but more importantly when that data is 'inverted', allowing it to be translated into real geological structures.

On a CPU-based cluster, this process could take anywhere from two hours to several days. In an effort to improve this, the team acquired a workstation equipped with an Nvidia Tesla C1060 GPU computing processor, based on the Nvidia Cuda parallel computing architecture. In six weeks the OpenGeoSolutions team converted a key portion of their application to Cuda and, as a result, witnessed an order of magnitude increase in performance.

'We are measuring speedups from two hours to two minutes using Cuda and the Tesla C1060,' said James Allison, president of OpenGeoSolutions. 'This kind of performance increase is totally unprecedented and in a market where there is great economic value in being able to determine these fine sub-surface details, this is a game changer.

'More importantly, the Tesla products essentially give us all a personal supercomputer. Just one Tesla C1060 delivers the same performance as our 64 CPU cluster, and this was a resource we had to share. This is a huge cost and time saving that has transformed our workflow and boosted our productivity.'